Exporting from Germany

Germany is the third largest export nation in the world after China and the USA. German exports cover goods such as chemicals, machinery and automotive products.

The country plays a key role within the European Union. Its central geographic position offer perfect conditions for foreign businesses wishing to export from Germany.

Exporting from Germany

Businesses wishing to export from Germany must ensure they abide by the various national and EU regulations which are designed to prevent exports from harming Germany’s and the EU’s position in the global economy.

Both Germany’s government and the EU have laid down lists of certain goods which require authorisation in order to be exported.

Regulatory framework

1. Germany

Exporting goods from Germany is regulated by the German Foreign Trade Act (Außenwirtschaftsgesetz). Authorisation requirements are laid down in the German Foreign Trade Regulations. These pieces of legislation aim to regulate the import and export of weapons and military equipment. In addition, the import and export of some firearms is governed by the German Firearms Regulations.

The Annex to the German Foreign Trade Regulations sets out the military goods which are subject to controls and authorisation requirements.

The obligation to obtain export licences also extends to software and technology products, including documents sent via e-mail, DVD, CD or via a company’s intranet.

2. European Union

At European Union level, the export, transfer, brokering and transit of dual-use items is governed by regulation.
Dual-use items are goods, software or technology which are normally used for civilian purposes but which could be used for military purposes.

Regulation (EC) No 428/2009, which is binding and directly applicable in all EU member states, contains lists of dual-use items for which there are common EU-wide authorisation obligations and procedures concerning their export and transfer within the EU.

Exporting from Germany to countries outside the EU

Exporting from Germany to countries outside the EU requires authorisation if the goods are listed in the annexes to the German Foreign Trade Regulations, the EU’s dual-use regulation or the German Firearms Regulations.

The annexes to the German Foreign Trade Regulations and the Firearms Regulations contain lists of military equipment and firearms which require export licences.

The EU Regulation also contains lists of dual-use items from a range of categories including:

  • Nuclear materials, facilities and equipment
  • Special materials and related equipment
  • Materials Processing
  • Electronics
  • Computers
  • Telecommunications and ″information security″
  • Sensors and lasers
  • Navigation and avionics
  • Marine
  • Aerospace and Propulsion

For most items, the national authorities are responsible for issuing export licences. In some cases however, the European Union issues export licences.

Goods which are not listed in any of the annexes mentioned above can, in certain circumstances, be subject to export controls.

This is the case if goods are designated for a use in the development, storage, maintenance or identification of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons; or if the intended use is for military purposes and the intended recipient is located in a country subject to a weapons embargo.

Exporting from Germany to the European Union

When exporting from Germany to countries in the European Union, the term “transfer” is used. Here, the transfer of goods which are intended to remain in the European Union is distinguished from the transfer of goods which will eventually be exported from the European Union.

1. Remain in the EU

The transfer of military equipment which is listed in the annex to the German Foreign Trade Regulations but which is to remain in the EU requires authorisation in the same way as if it were for export to non-EU countries.

Dual-use items which are to be exported from Germany but remain in the EU can largely be freely transferred. However, some dual-use items do require export licences.

2. Leave the EU

Businesses wishing to transfer goods within the EU and eventually export them will require export licences if the goods are listed in the German Foreign Trade Regulations annex.

With some exceptions, an export licence is required for dual-use items when the business effecting the transfer and export has knowledge that the goods will leave the EU.

In other cases, an export licence is generally required if the German Federal Office of Economic and Export Control informs the business that it is required.


The activity of broking can also be subject to export licence requirements.

Brokering includes the negotiation or arrangement of transactions for the purchase, sale or supply of dual-use items from a third country to any other third country, or the selling or buying of dual-use items that are located in third countries for their transfer to another third country.

This definition does not include the provision of ancillary services such as transportation, financial services, insurance or re-insurance, and general advertising or promotion.

If the goods are listed in the annex to the dual-use regulation, an export licence is required. Export licences are also required for goods not listed in the annex if the exporter is informed by the competent authorities that the goods are intended for use or development as chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

If exporters are aware that goods not listed in the annex may be intended for use as such weapons, they should inform the competent authorities, who will decide whether to issue an export licence.

Prohibitions on exporting

Some countries may be subject to embargoes. Sometimes such embargoes can apply to goods which are not specifically subject to export control. They can also restrict not only the export of goods, but also the import and transit of goods from those countries. Embargoes can range from complete or partial prohibitions to weapons prohibitions.

More information

For more information on exporting from Germany and the applicable export rules, contact our team of expert German lawyers on +49 (0) 221 / 951 563 0 or use our contact form.

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Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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