Global relationships with customers and suppliers are now part of day-to-day business for most companies. GvW Graf von Westphalen advises companies, forwarding agents, insurance providers and logistics service providers on all areas of foreign trade and customs law.
Our status as one of the leading German law firms in the field of foreign trade law has been confirmed once again in the “JUVE Handbook of German Commercial Law Firms 2018/2019”. In the handbook we are ranked as the unchallenged number 1 and described as the "lighthouse practice group". GvW is also the only law firm with a 5-star valuation in the area of customs and excise taxes (JUVE Handbook 2018 Tax).
In addition to customs issues, our specialized knowledge in the field of foreign trade and customs law encompasses antidumping and foreign trade, export control and sanctions, market regulation, state aid and subsidies,and WTO. Our tax advisers also provide assistance with any matters concerning VAT law and excise duties. We also possess industry-specific expertise in the fields of pharmaceuticals and health care, nutrition, electronics, new media, textiles and industrial facilities.
Our team offers advice on the drafting of contracts under civil law as well as on financing and securing payment. We represent companies and their senior employees in proceedings involving criminal offenses and monetary fines. With regard to preventative measures, we are also particularly active in the field of compliance consulting.
We represent companies in disputes before national authorities and the European Commission as well before tax courts and administrative courts up to the level of the European Court of Justice.
In addition to relevant EC law, the German Trade Law and the German Foreign Trade Regulation govern national foreign trade in Germany.
They regulate, in particular, the control and supervisory powers of customs agencies and the German Office of Economics and Export Control. This office has overall responsibility for the issuance of export licenses.
The obligation to obtain a permit may also apply when third parties acquire companies in Germany by third parties.
The penal provisions and administrative fines of foreign trade law apply to infringements of statutory provisions.
Sales and excise taxes are not fully harmonized within the EU. As a result, national regulations must be observed in cross-border transactions.
At the same time, sales taxes on deliveries of goods and services within the EU and with third countries are subject to special national regulations. Certain goods in commercial traffic (mineral oil, natural gas, electricity, tobacco, coffee, spirits and sparkling wine) are also subject to excise taxes.
The energy tax in particular has continued to gain importance in recent years. The respective excise tax laws provide for comprehensive tax duties, but also various tax exemptions, tax reimbursement and tax reduction options.
The imposition of antidumping duties is probably the most common as well as the most drastic measure taken to protect EU industries from allegedly unfair trade practices of third countries. When a third country itself intervenes in international competition by using export subsidies, antidumping duties can be imposed on imports from this country under the WTO Subsidies Agreement.
The EC common market organization regulates not only the production, but also the processing and trade in agricultural products and products derived from them. Responsibility lies with the European Commission, the German Office for Agriculture and Food (Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung - BLE), the main customs office of Hamburg-Jonas (for export reimbursements) as well as regional officials. Strict formality and procedural requirements regarding state aid and subsidies must be observed. Infringements are subject to sanctions.
The export of dual use or military goods is subject to restrictions and normally requires a permit. There are also (partial) embargoes against certain third countries which limit or prohibit the export of goods to those countries.
Finally, the EC Regulations No. 2580/2001 and No. 881/2002 prohibit business contact to all people and companies suspected of committing or supporting terrorism.
Agreements concluded in the context of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) (e.g., GATT, GATS, TRIPS, and the SCM Agreement) have an impact in EC law.
Non-discriminatory international trade is supposed to occur between WTO member states. In the case of violations, there is a specific dispute settlement process in which a binding decision about the conflict can be rendered. If consultations among the states fail, a state can be authorized to introduce antidumping duties on imports from third countries.
Knowledge of the content and types of actions under WTO law is absolutely essential when providing comprehensive advice on international trade matters.
The import and export of goods are regulated by European customs law.
We advise and represent clients in all aspects of customs law before the national customs officials and the European Commission as well as before German and European courts. Our close working relationship with specialized law firms in other EU member states and third countries ensures that we can provide expert assistance there as well. In China, these matters are primarily handled by our office in Shanghai.