Subproject C06 — Foreign trade securitisation.
Companies, the state and Hermes Kreditversicherungs-AG (1949-1984)
Bild: Containerschiff im Hamburger Hafen
Since the 19th century, the success of the German economy has largely been based on exports. After the Second World War, the traditionally strong export-orientated West German economy endeavoured by making attempts at internationalisation and liberalisation to become involved in global economic and trade relations again as quickly as possible. The general political climate, the Cold War, the attempts at decolonialisation in many parts of the world and economic restrictions in the form of tariff and non-tariff trade barriers represented great potential for uncertainty for the West German economy, however. International business relationships posed regionally distinctive country risks, which comprised both political and economic risks. From the perspective of the actors involved, particularly the West German export companies, it was important to recognise, assess and evaluate these risks to be able to derive appropriate action strategies based on them. Appropriate corporate knowledge and risk management involved, among other things, activities in the field of information procurement and evaluation as well as the assessment and reduction of risk by taking measures to set prices, interest rates and delivery and payment terms and also regarding bank guarantees.
Besides commercial forms of cover from banks and insurance companies, there was also the possibility of obtaining cover for export transactions from state surety bonds and guarantees, which play a central role in this sub-project. In this respect, Hermes Kreditversicherungs-AG was an important means of export cover and creating foreign trade security under state mandate as well as, at the same time, part of the German foreign policy security strategies. Hermes guarantees are federal cover for transactions undertaken by German exporters with private foreign companies; Hermes surety bonds cover transactions with states, authorities or public corporations. They primarily apply to manufacturing, export, finance and exchange rate risks. In this sense, state security interests corresponded to corporate interests in long-term and stable market protection and the security of economic areas. The creation of security by trade and economic involvement should, in turn, be secured or insured (by the state) in light of uncertain conditions.
In this sense, this sub-project addresses the interfaces between corporate knowledge and risk management as well as state interests in foreign trade and security. As the subproject focuses on issues of generating knowledge and information, assessments and interpretations based on this of international political and economic constellations by the actors involved and the resulting measures for creating security, the levels of perception and action will be linked. In this sense, the Hermes system is understood as an expression of complex and sometimes diverging security perceptions and interests (companies, associations, state). These will be analysed for the period after the Second World War (1949 - 1984); macro- and microeconomic issues are linked within this context, whereby special attention is paid to the aspect of company history.