On Wednesday, Mahrer emphasized the great importance of foreign trade for the entire domestic economy and – supported by a survey among companies – called for it to be strengthened. This year, goods worth more than 200 billion euros could be exported for the first time. In 2025, exports of goods and services together could exceed the 300 billion mark for the first time, said Mahrer happily. But he complains about the bureaucracy and warns of its dangers.
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Since other regions of the world are catching up on the export markets, the situation is not getting any easier for companies from the Alpine republic, according to Mahrer, despite the immense quality of Austrian products. The reason for this is higher energy costs and what he criticizes as excessive bureaucracy, which, for example, would get even further out of hand if the supply chain law, which Mahrer is against, was implemented.
“If we want to be successful, then we have to be a successful production location,” said the President of the Economic Chamber (WKÖ) and the ÖVP Economic Association. This is determined by energy, wage and salary costs and bureaucratic costs. “All of this needs to be put to the test. Because things don’t look great, not just in Austria – throughout Europe and Germany too.” Therefore, a “moratorium on bureaucracy” is needed in the EU after the upcoming EU elections. Existing rules should be evaluated after a few years to determine their usefulness, objectives and burden and, if necessary, be sharpened or abolished.
Additional wage costs as a “major burden”
In Austria in particular, the wage agreements of the past two years represented a “great burden”. Mahrer once again demanded that additional wage costs must be reduced without social cuts. “Overall, we have to make sure that Austria and Europe don’t ‘price themselves out’ of the market.” If, for example, a Mexican supplier was 15 percent cheaper, then his goods would be bought instead of Austrian ones, even if their quality was slightly higher.
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Germany continues to be Austria’s most important export market by a wide margin. According to Mahrer, this is of course associated with risks and right now people across the EU, not just Austria, are looking with concern at the “engine of the entire European economy, Germany”. Austria most recently (2022) exported goods there worth 58 billion euros. This is followed by Italy with 13.24 billion euros, which overtook the USA with 12.9 billion euros. After a corona in 2020, there have been consistent – at least nominal – increases in global exports since then.
The focus of the latest efforts to increase foreign trade is currently and will continue to be primarily Southeast Asia. In the “Global Business Barometer” survey conducted by the Chamber of Commerce (WKÖ) among 1,764 domestic export companies in 68 countries, companies’ expectations are particularly high there. A total of 63,700 companies are active in exports. Every fourth tax euro depends on exports, which secure 1.2 million jobs.
Asia on the rise
But the global situation is challenging. Overall, the mood in companies in the survey reflects the tense global economic situation. Asia is on the rise, stagnation prevails in Europe.
Asia is a particularly important opportunity market for Austrian companies. For India and Southeast Asia, 49 and 34 percent of Austrian branches abroad expect the economic situation to improve. 42 and 48 percent respectively assume that the economic climate will at least remain the same. In Japan, more than half of the companies surveyed (56 percent) expect the economic climate to remain the same over the next twelve months, while 24 percent expect it to improve.
The mood for the EU is pointing towards stagnation. If there was already a massive setback in the outlook for economic development in 2023, 41 percent expect the economic climate to remain the same in 2024, while 43 percent expect it to worsen. The outlook is more positive in the CEE countries, where four out of ten branches anticipate a deterioration, while 18 percent say that the general economic climate is improving.