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Press release EU internal market as a crisis anchor

China is viewed increasingly critically, but remains (still) important as a procurement market

The industrial Mittelstand companies follow the current geopolitical crises and conflicts with great concern and take first precautions: Indeed, China generally remains important to companies as a procurement market since the country holds a monopoly-like position for some raw materials. However, the country is viewed increasingly critically. Hence, other Asian countries move into focus as possible alternatives, which is shown in the online survey conducted by IfM Bonn in early summer 2023. Over 1,800 managers from industrial companies took part in the survey. In autumn, representatives of chambers and trade associations were also interviewed about companies' activities abroad.

"North America is becoming increasingly important, especially for exporting companies. However, the EU internal market remains the most important market, especially for the Mittelstand companies, due to the high level of legal certainty and reliable framework conditions. In contrast, trade in goods with the UK has become noticeably less important since Brexit," reports study director Hans-Jürgen Wolter. From an economic perspective, he recommends further strengthening the EU internal market politically, reducing bureaucratic hurdles in a targeted manner and consistently implementing the "think small first" premise when designing new regulations. At the same time, free (global) trade should be promoted again, for example in the form of free trade agreements, so companies become more confident when planning and can make optimal investments in the long term.

The tendency towards foreign production sites.

According to the IfM Bonn survey, only a few managers plan to relocate production sites abroad. Nevertheless, the tendency to set up new production facilities abroad has increased – even among the Mittelstand companies. "Depending on the extent to which this trend is also reflected in future investment decisions, this could lead to a reduction in the proportion of value added by industry in Germany in the long term," fears Hans-Jürgen Wolter.