BDI internationally

BDI/BDA Business Representation, Rue Marie de Bourgogne, Brussels. © BDI/D.A.O.

When the BDI opened the new Brussels office in February 2016 it was primarily a completely new space. With its glass facades and walls the architectural design of the offices in the rue Marie de Bourgogne are a symbol of the transparency which has always been characteristic of the organisation’s international activities.

In the BDI’s historical archive the various stages towards the BDI becoming the international federation it is today can be retraced. Excerpts from the BDI Annual Reports in the Fifties show that the BDI was at home on the international scene even then. The BDI staff  had a worldwide network, set up various committees and contributed to important international fora.  

“Increasing international cooperation made it necessary to establish permanent representations in the key European countries.”  

This is what you can read today in the 1956 Annual Report. The BDI Department for International Relations also wrote: “The oldest and largest of these representations is the one in Paris. […]. The German Delegate at the International Chamber of Trade in Paris, Gerhard Riedberg, is now head of the BDI representation.”  

Documents in the BDI historical archive reveal that in London too, by the creation of a “BDI Secretarial Office”, a representative, Hans Stork, had been appointed to “attend to the interests of the BDI”. In addition, “the Director of the German American Trade Promotion Office, Henri A. Abt, addressed the interests of the BDI (“Federation of German Industries”) in an honorary capacity” in New York. And finally in 1958, after the epoch-making Treaty of Rome for European integration had been concluded, Heinrich Eichner became head of the new BDI Brussels representation, a liaison office with the EEC, EURATOM and UNICE. What came across as formal and stiff in the dusty archive files, had in reality an exciting impact: the BDI staff championed the interests of German business at international level. They prepared policies for a market which today has far fewer tariff and non-tariff trade barriers than in those days. The reader can unfortunately as yet only speculate about who met whom in the Fifties, who dealt with whom at which negotiations. Very few documents remain from this era.  

When the European Community’s economic relations focused on Asia in the Seventies, the BDI, together with the Deutsche Industrie- und Handelstag / Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHT) and the Deutschen Industrie- und Handelskammer / German Chamber of Industry and Commerce set up its representation in Japan in Tokyo in 1977. It had after all always been an integral part of German business philosophy to supply global markets. This is reflected by the fragmentary sources which have survived in the archive relating to business missions to Latin America, East Asia and later to Africa, as well as to other developing regions, as early as in the Fifties.  

In addition to the representations abroad in Brussels, London and Tokyo, the BDI has had offices in Washington since 1987 and in the course of 2016 a new liaison office was set up in Peking.