German Arms Exports Fall as Controls Are Tightened

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    German arms exports have boomed in recent years, but the government is keen to keep a strongly restrictive export regime in place, preventing weapons falling into the wrong hands.

  • Facts


    • In 2016, German arms exports were around €6.85 billion, down almost €1 billion on the previous year.
    • The country has strict export controls on arms, with all major deals needing the approval of a confidential committee of ministers.
    • Last year, 46.4 percent of all German arms exports went to EU or NATO member states.
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German arms are in demand. Picture source: Reuters

It is unusual for a minister to be happy to report a fall in exports. But when Brigitte Zypries, Germany’s economics minister, presents the country’s biannual arms industry report to her cabinet colleagues on Wednesday, she will be pleased to announce a continuing fall in weapons exports.

The official German report on the arms trade in 2016, which Handelsblatt has seen, suggests that exports fell from its 2015 level of €7.86 billion, around $8.81 billion, to €6.85 billion in 2016. However, this remains a historically high level of exports. An interim report on the first four months of this year showed a further fall, with exports dropping to €2.42 billion from €3.3 billion for the same period last year.

Ms. Zypries represents the center-left Social Democratic party, which has sought to restrict the arms trade for a number of years, and was embarrassed by the export boom of recent years. The arms industry is unpopular with the party’s broadly anti-militarist base. With federal elections just three months away, the issue is a potentially tricky one.

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