International Trade Law in Germany
In Germany, the regulation of international trade is overseen by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and governed by the Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance (Außenwirtschaftsverordnung, AWV) and the Foreign Trade and Payments Act (Außenwirtschaftsgesetz, AWG). As one of the states in the European Union, Germany enjoys the benefits of several EU trade agreements and economic partnership agreements. Companies considering doing business in Germany may face certain hurdles, which are shared with other European Union states, but also their own unique challenges.
At ZELLER & SEYFERT, we help to ensure your company can navigate and keep up with the constant changes. We can offer specialized consultations and representation based on our hyper-focused expertise areas. The following are specific cases in which we can provide legal services regarding International Trade and Transport.
Foreign Investment Control
Germany remains a competitive and attractive country for foreign direct investment (FDI), primarily from neighboring European countries but also the United States and Japan. The astronomical rise of FDI transactions in Europe from China since the 2010s has given way to concerns regarding mergers & acquisitions (M&A) throughout the region. While the EU generally remains open to Chinese investment, as with any country, where agreements are mutually beneficial, the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) recently tightened the investment control laws through the AWG-Amendment in July 2020. With the resulting increase of legal uncertainty, Chinese investors seeking to invest in Germany should consult a qualified attorney as a guide through the new processes.
Our team holds strong expertise in Employment Law, Corporate Law, International Business Law, IP Law, and Media Law to give you a well-rounded but precise coverage to make sure your firm fulfills various forms of legal requirements. This includes:
- Labor law requirements for domestic and international talent
- Export regulations for international companies into Germany
- Import regulations for German companies/German branches of international companies
- German customs advice for trade corporations
- Data Protection requirements in handling company & customer data
- Antitrust/unfair competition cases
Our firm specializes in areas that crossover with Maritime Law, including Inland Waterway Transport, Inland Shipping, and Shipping Labor Law.
International Carriage Conventions
Conventions for carriage of goods by sea, particularly for bills of lading, were introduced by developed countries to outline uniform rules of liability, starting with the Hague Rules of 1924. Germany ratified the Hague Rules, which is the most widely ratified version of the international convention. Subsequently, the content of the updated 1968 Hague-Visby Rules has mostly been incorporated into Book 5 of the German Commercial Code (Handelsgesetzbuch, HGB).
As each country currently adheres to different conventions and regulations when it comes to Transport & Shipping Law, it is important to consult a competent Maritime attorney to help navigate the differences in laws, and whether or not a country has denounced older versions of the international conventions. For example, the United Kingdom has denounced the older Hague Rules and currently observes the Hague-Visby version and Hague-SDR amendments, while the United States relies on its own statutes, such as the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (which is a slightly updated version of the Hague Rules).
Each German state also has their own ordinances when it comes to shipping, particularly on inland waterways. Some examples include:
- the Ordinance regulating shipping traffic on the waters of the State of Berlin (Verordnung zur Regelung des Schiffsverkehrs auf den Gewässern des Landes Berlin (Landesschifffahrtsverordnung Berlin – LandesschiffVO BE)) of April 27, 1998
- the State Waterways Ordinance (Landeswasserstraßenverordnung) of Hessen of November 26, 2015
- the Water Act for the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (Wassergesetzes für das Land Nordrhein-Westfalen (Landeswassergesetz, LWG)) of June 25, 1995
- the Ordinance on traffic in the port of Hamburg and on other waters (Verordnung über den Verkehr im Hamburger Hafen und auf anderen Gewässern (Hafenverkehrsordnung)) of July 12, 1979
- The Ordinance for shipping on Bavarian waters (Bayerische Schifffahrtsverordnung – BaySchiffV) of August 9, 1977
Vessels that operate on an international scale or cross international borders must be registered. Shipowners can choose to register in the German International Shipping Register (GIS), which allows them to employ overseas seafarers according to the wage conditions of their home country while also flying the German flag.
Contrarily, the German government also allows shipping companies/operators the ability to change to a foreign flag for a limited period, according to §7 of the Flag Act (Flaggenrechtsgesetz). The Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie, BSH) permits the change for up to two years.
Whether it is due to negligence, human error, or acts of God, maritime collision cases must be handled with speed and great care.
Learn more in our special section about sea & inland waterway collisions.
Aftermath of Coronavirus on International Trade and Transport
Since the pandemic unleashed chaos into the world, international trade was heavily impacted due to the restrictive measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus. While provisions were made for certain goods deemed necessary, such as medical equipment, chemicals, and food and drink, largely all other imports & exports dropped. As the trade capital of the European Union, Germany faced a decrease in trade compared to the previous year. Additionally, cases involving the liability of transportation carriers and force majeure clauses have rising dramatically.
As the world struggles to forge clear paths toward normalcy, domestic and international companies alike will have to pay close attention to the ever-changing law.