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.