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German Arms Industry in Search of Structural Reform and New Opportunities

Sigmar Gabriel. Source DPA
Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel has his eye on German arms producers.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany is the world’s third largest arms exporting nations. The country’s businesses and national defense depend on a sound national policy.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Sigmar Gabriel aims to talk soon with Chancellor Angela Merkel about the industry’s future.
    • Issues include inefficiencies, planning, jobs and industry consolidation.
    • Arms makers shuddered when Mr. Gabriel recently criticized weapons exports.
  • Audio

    Audio

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Sigmar Gabriel isn’t exactly regarded as a friend of the arms industry. Germany’s economy and energy minister said it was a “shame” that Germany was among the largest weapons exporters, and he panicked the industry when he announced that deals with countries outside of NATO would be allowed only as exceptions.

For all that, when Mr. Gabriel met Friday with the chief executives of the arms companies the expected confrontation didn’t happen. For a good reason: Mr. Gabriel, the head of the Social Democratic Party, has committed to developing new opportunities with them.

For companies, hardly anything is more important than planning security — and that is something the economy minister is hoping to provide. Mr. Gabriel has arranged with Chancellor Angela Merkel to talk about the future of the industry over the coming weeks. Horst Seehofer, the head of the Christian Social Union and Bavarian premier, who fears for Bavarian jobs, will also be involved.

Mr. Gabriel also wants to meet with Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble to discuss which contracts the industry can expect from the German military over the coming years and what industry know-how should be maintained in Germany — although this really falls under Ms. von der Leyen’s area of competence. However, after the debates over the delivery of weapons to the Kurds, Mr. Gabriel might be happy to use Ms. von der Leyen to push through his own interests.

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