From Jan.1 to March 31, the German government issued individual licenses for the export of military equipment worth 1.12 billion euros (1.26 billion U.S. dollars), according to an answer given by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy seen by Xinhua on Tuesday.
Initial figures in the German government response to the question by Green parliamentarian Omid Nouripour showed that the United States was the largest customer of the German arms industry, purchasing 169 million euros’ worth of equipment in the first three months of 2019.
The U.S. was followed by the United Kingdom, which purchased 157 million euros’ worth of military equipment during the period, and Australia, with 88 million euros.
For the entire year 2018, Algeria was still the largest customer of the German weapons industry, purchasing military equipment worth 802 million euros. In the current arms export numbers, however, Algeria no longer appeared on the list of the twenty countries spending the most on German weapons.
The newest preliminary figures from the German government are part of a trend of a decline in weapons and military equipment exports in recent years.
At the end of last year, German arms exports were worth 4.82 billion euros, which was a significant decrease compared to 2017, when individual licenses totaling 6.24 billion euros were issued, according to the ministry.
It was the third year in a row in which the German defense industry suffered a decline. The most recent growth was back in 2015, when it reached a record level of 7.86 billion euros.
Arms exports have caused division among Germany’s ruling parties, particularly over the decision of whether or not to extend a ban on weapons exports to Saudi Arabia.
The German government recently extended this ban, which it had imposed following the murder of the Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.
According to the ministry, “decisions on licenses for exports of military equipment are primarily based on foreign and security policy considerations, and not on commercial or labor-market interests”.