In 2009 Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI) opened an office in Milan under the same roof as the German-Italian Chamber of Commerce (AHK), but the two countries’ economies have benefited from a close cooperation between AHK and GTAI for over 30 years. Markets Germany spoke with Robert Scheid, who heads up GTAI Milan, and Stefanie Burgdorff from GTAI Berlin about the special relationship that exists between the two great industrial nations. Ms. Burgdorff recently participated in a month-long exchange in the Milan office.
Mr. Scheid, how exactly does the cooperation between the GTAI and the AHK in Milan work?
Robert Scheid: The exchange allows both organizations to better serve the needs of companies, who are ultimately the biggest beneficiaries. It is a true example of a win-win situation. The AHK works closely with both German and Italian companies and so is able to provide GTAI with excellent contacts. This helps us gain useful insights into the challenges companies are facing, new market opportunities as they arise and the way the real economy ticks. At the same time the AHK benefits from the wealth of data provided in our reports, which are used for events, delegation trips and information requests from companies. The end result is a richer information pool for the AHK and increased networking opportunities for GTAI. This provides improved support for companies operating internationally.
Both organizations must be inundated with business enquiries. Do they work together to answer them?
Scheid: Absolutely. Italian and German companies come with a stream of questions about doing business in the respective countries. Given our complementary areas of expertise, with GTAI providing information on the specific markets and AHK advising the companies, it is natural for us to share requests for information in order to provide the best and quickest response to the customer. Even though we are separate organizations, our common goal is to increase opportunities for the German economy, so we always try to provide one face to the customer and introduce each other as partners. For example, GTAI holds briefings for German business delegations which are hosted by the AHK, while meetings with potential investors are conducted jointly.
Ms. Burgdorff, Italy is the second most prolific industrial country in the EU and a vital trading partner for Germany, but how important is Germany as an investment location for Italian companies?
Stefanie Burgdorff: To give you an idea, about 20 per cent of Italy’s foreign direct investment (FDI) projects in Western Europe are implemented in Germany. That’s a significant proportion. There are approximately 2,800 Italian companies active in Germany, mostly located in Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, and they employ about 135,000 people.
What have been the main sectors of Italian direct investment in Germany in recent years?
Burgdorff: Interest in greenfield investments – where the parent company builds its operations on foreign soil from the ground up, from the construction of new facilities to the establishment of a new distribution network – has grown significantly over the past five years. Over a third of the Italian FDI projects in Germany took place in the fashion and textile industry during this period. The majority of projects focused on retail and production activities, with a growing number in mechanical engineering and the consumer goods industries.