Customs and Trade

Business in Iran and stricter controls by authorities raise demand for advice

In spite of the difficult political environment, German foreign trade continues to grow and demand for advice on export law is increasing. This is particularly the case for companies introducing products in the Iranian market, now that sanctions have been eased. At the same time, the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States and the new sanctions against Russia have caused uncertainty: while advising their clients on entering the Iranian market, law firms are simultaneously drawing up contingency plans that would enable a withdrawal in the event that embargoes are ramped up again.

Increasingly, credit institutions are also seeking advice on investments and money transfers in sanctioned countries. Here a decision by the European Court of Justice led to greater clarity by limiting the mandatory audits for credit institutes in monetary transactions with embargoed countries. Knowledge and technology transfer is also giving rise to new issues in sanctions law.

The recently tightened regulations concerning foreign investments in Germany and stricter controls by customs and financial authorities are also leading to more work for lawyers: more and more companies are now creating comprehensive compliance programs for cross-border trade at an early stage. This involves expertise at the interface between antitrust, tax crime and public law, as well as conflict resolution.

Firms beef up in customs and trade compliance

With the increasing interest in doing business in Iran, many firms are expanding their expertise here. After CMS Hasche Sigle and Wülfing Zeuner Rechel, Rödl & Partner also opened an office in Tehran. Other firms such as Noerr and Friedrich Graf von Westphalen & Partner are making use of the linguistic and legal competence of Iranian lawyers in their teams.

The nuclear agreement is creating demand for advice in customs and trade compliance above all. International firms such as Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Baker & McKenzie in particular are focusing their customs and trade advice on embargo and sanctions law (with the latter recently landing a recognized specialist from the former) and are leaving customs and sales tax to specialists such as Helmut Bleier or Schrömbges + Partner. Few firms are as successful as Graf von Westphalen in mastering the whole range of customs and trade law and engaging with new issues that accompany cross-border trade, such as digitalization.


This chapter covers firms that are active in the international regulation of the import and export of goods, services and rights, as well as the complex maze of export control and customs. Some firms also focus on international commercial law and World Trade Organization (WTO) regulations. Lawyers with experience in arbitration and commercial disputes can also be found in the chapter on ?dispute resolution. Export control also plays an increasing role in ?compliance audits and investigations.

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