Business Location, Innovation and International Policy


Austria is an exporting country. The significance of foreign trade for Austria's national economy is illustrated by concrete facts and figures: around 60 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) are generated by our exporting companies and every second job directly or indirectly by foreign trade. Thus, Austria's export sector ensures growth, jobs, social security and prosperity in our country.

Products and services 'Made in Austria' are sought after and recognised throughout the world. Austria boasts a great many top enterprises which hold their own in international competition. The number of exporters has more than quadrupled in the past 25 years from 12,000 to 58,000, a number that comprises not only large companies: small- and medium-sized enterprises account for around 80 per cent of exporting businesses in many sectors and industries.    

The new Foreign Trade Strategy 2018 aims to further reinforce Austria's export sector. It focuses on implementation and will also become part of the continuation of the successful Internationalisation Initiative (Internationalisierungsoffensive) 'go international', which was launched in 2003 to help Austrian exporters and investors to remain competitive even in a difficult international environment.

The conduct and further development of bilateral economic relations also help Austrian businesses to become more international.

The participation of Austria in world fairs (EXPOs) as well as in projects under the European Territorial Cooperation Programmes (ETC), which are co-financed by the Federal Ministry, are other examples of efforts that greatly contribute to achieving this goal.

Foreign Trade Strategy 2018

Based on a decision by the Austrian Council of Ministers of 4 April 2018, the new Foreign Trade Strategy was developed in a participatory process with the broad involvement of all relevant stakeholders under the leadership of the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs, the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs and the Austrian Economic Chamber and adopted at the meeting of the Council of Ministers of 19 December 2018. It comprises seven chapters with a total of 63 policy measures to further consolidate the competitive strength of Austria's foreign trade in the international arena and the attractiveness of the country as a location for business.

Its key elements are:

Chapter 1 (Foreign trade policy with a perspective):

Development of an implementation roadmap for EU trade and investment agreements to help companies make best use of the benefits (tariff preferences, etc.) offered by these agreements.

Expansion of the Research Centre International Economics FIW as an Austrian and Central European centre of excellence for application-oriented foreign trade research.

Chapter 2 (Foreign trade policy with guiding values):

Strengthening the Austrian National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises as a one-stop-shop to assist Austrian companies in assuming their corporate responsibilities in cross-border operations.

Fostering sustainable and fair economic partnerships between Austrian companies and local partners.

Chapter 3 (Foreign trade policy with location effect):

Upgrading the Austrian Business Agency ABA-Invest in Austria into a regional development (location) agency, which also manages the recruitment of skilled workers.

Creation of a cooperation platform to set up networks linking SMEs and industrial enterprises for the purpose of making it easier for start-ups and SMEs to get a foothold in foreign markets and obtain contracts in large-scale international projects.

Encouraging the internationalisation of the dual training system with special regard to the needs of Austrian companies on site as well as exporting the Austrian system of dual training schemes.

Further development of the Austrian mechanism of investment monitoring to ensure the effective protection of public security and public policy (ordre public) whenever Austrian businesses are taken over by individuals or companies from third countries.

Chapter 4 (Foreign trade policy with priorities):

Stronger Austrian presence in growth markets through appropriate orientation of Austria's foreign networks and strategic consolidation of support programmes for Austrian companies.

Targeted political support at government level, in particular for major strategic projects.

Definition of systematic country/sector priorities within the framework of the 'go international' funding programmes to provide targeted support to Austrian businesses.

Development of a Business Intelligence Platform for global infrastructure projects to enable Austrian companies to receive better information on projects.

Chapter 5 (Foreign trade policy with a forward-looking approach):

Assisting Austrian businesses, in particular SMEs, in utilising digital distribution channels.

Upgrading the Austrian network in global innovation hubs.

Expanding the GIN start-up funding programme (GIN = Global Incubator Network) towards China.

Chapter 6 (Foreign trade policy with active communication):

Modernising school curricula (especially in Geography and Economics) for young people to get into early contact with current developments in the economic world and, more specifically, in foreign trade.

Fact-based public relations involving the business community to foster a constructive debate in public.

Chapter 7 (Foreign trade policy with efficient coordination):

Establishment of a coordination body for all state and economic stakeholders to exchange information and ensure optimised reconciliation of foreign trade policies.

Further development of 'go international' based on the recommendations of the current evaluation study with a view to simplifying instruments and combining measures.

Introduction of a meta portal for Austria's international web presence.

Standardisation of the relevant stakeholders' public face to enhance the recognition value of Austria.

Internationalisation Initiative / go international

In place since 2003, 'go international' supports Austrian exporters and investors under the Internationalisation Initiative – The partner for implementing projects under the initiative is the external trade unit of the Austrian Economic Chamber (WKO).

A study conducted by the Austrian Institute for Economic Research (WIFO) confirms the economic effectiveness of the programme: a single euro of 'go international' support generates 55 euros in additional exports of material assets, 60 euros in value added and 15 euros in tax revenue.

Both the government programme 2017-2022 and the Foreign Trade Strategy 2018 include plans to further expand 'go international'.

The fifth period of 'go international' ended on 31 March 2019. Currently, the agreement for the next period is being negotiated.

Austria's Economic Relations

For a small and open economy such as Austria's, economic interaction with foreign countries is of tremendous importance. The export and import of goods, services, capital and know-how are essential for its economic development.

Policies to maintain and enhance bilateral economic relations and encourage the export-mindedness of Austrian companies play a key role in this context. Accordingly, the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs is in regular contact with domestic and foreign entities in this field both inside and outside the European Union. This dialogue is intended to strengthen Austria as a business location by internationalising the Austrian economy and, in so doing, help generate sustainable growth and viable jobs.

Austria's economic relations with:


Africa as well as Near and Middle East


Asia and the Pacific

Eastern Europe and Central Asia


Belarus Joint Commission

Uzbekistan Joint Commission

World Fairs – EXPOs

More than 160 years ago, in 1851, the first world fair took place in London. It was a huge success and this success was repeated by a number of other EXPOs.

Rules for EXPOs – where are they laid down?

With the growing number (and thus declining success) of these events it became necessary to introduce certain rules to be complied with. For this purpose the Convention Relating to International Exhibitions was adopted in 1928.

It includes simple provisions on hosting world fairs and on the time intervals in between such exhibitions, the details of which have been revised several times since then. The Bureau International des Expositions or BIE (International Exhibitions Bureau) was established in Paris to manage the Convention. Membership to the BIE is open to all countries. The Convention Relating to International Exhibitions currently has 170 members, with Austria being among them and represented by the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs as the lead ministry.

Are there different types of world fairs?

The Convention includes two categories of EXPOs:

Large-scale events focusing on a universal topic are called 'International Registered Exhibitions'; they are 'mega EXPOs' that take place every five years and may last up to six months.

Events with more specific themes are called 'International Recognised Exhibitions'; these 'smaller EXPOs' may last no more than three months and the size of their sites is limited to 25 hectares.

Current International Exhibition: EXPO 2020 Dubai

Dubai, the largest city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will host a registered 'large-scale' World EXPO on the topic of 'Connecting Minds, Creating the Future' in 2020. Austria will participate in this world fair and present itself with its own pavilion to an expected crowd of 25 million.

For more information on EXPO 2020 Dubai please click here.

Forthcoming world fairs

  • EXPO 2023 Buenos Aires

The next so-called 'smaller' EXPO takes place from 15 January to 15 April 2023 in Buenos Aires on the topic of 'Creative Industries in Digital Convergence'. Argentina won its bid against Lodz/Poland and Minnesota/USA as a result of the vote at BIE's 162nd General Assembly.

The exhibition ground of roughly 25 ha is in the north-western part of the city, 17 km from the historic centre, at the General Paz Freeway in Villa Martelli. 6.1 million people are expected to visit, whereof three per cent from abroad, and 80-100 countries and six international organisations are expected to participate.

  • EXPO 2025

The next Registered International Exhibition to follow on Dubai will take place in Japan in 2025.The topic of this six-month EXPO will be 'Designing Future Society for Our Lives'. Osaka-Kansai prevailed over Baku/Azerbaijan and Ekaterinburg/Russia in the ballot cast by BIE member states in November 2018.

Previous world fairs

More than 60 world fairs have taken place to date, the most recent ones in Aichi/Japan 2005, Zaragoza/Spain 2008, Shanghai/PRC 2010, Yeosu/South Korea 2012, Milan/Italy 2015 and Astana/Kazakhstan 2017.

  • EXPO 2017 Astana

The Kazakh capital Astana hosted a World Expo on 'Future Energy' from 10 June to 10 September 2017, which was attended by 115 countries and 22 international organisations.

At this recognised 'smaller' EXPO, Austria addressed the above topic with a contribution entitled 'With brain, heart and muscle power – The Austrian Power machine'.  In a hall, shared with the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Latvia, Greece and Switzerland, Austria explored the EXPO's topic on 900 m² in a playful manner. The presentation won the iF Design Award and the Red Dot Award for innovative design.

Austrian companies were present at the EXPO Astana in manifold ways: four out of only 23 award-winning projects of the 'Energy Best Practice Area' were from Austria, while three Austrian companies were involved in the construction of the EXPO grounds.

For more information on the Austrian contribution to EXPO 2017 Astana please click here.

  • EXPO 2015 Milan

Milan was the city of the 2015 world fair, which took place from 1 May to 31 October under the motto 'Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life'.

With its 'breathe.austria' pavilion, Austria put air as the vital food centre stage. A forest ecosystem was created with around 12,000 trees and plants on a surface of almost 560 m² to display the Austrian forest. Alongside the soothing and typically Austrian forest atmosphere, this ecosystem generated oxygen for 1,800 people per hour and cooled the temperature within the pavilion in a natural manner, i.e. without air conditioning, by three to five degrees against outdoor temperatures. In addition, the rooftop photovoltaic panels and a solar cell turned the Austrian pavilion into an energy-neutral building, meaning it produced more electricity than it consumed.   The Austrian pavilion received several awards, among them awards by the EXPO organiser and the Italian Ministry of the Environment.

For more information on the Austrian contribution to EXPO 2017 Milan please click here.


European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) in Austria 2014-2020

Under the EU's objective of promoting territorial development with the European Territorial Cooperation Programme (ETC, previously INTERREG), Austrian project partners may access seven cross-border and three transnational funding programmes as well as four EU-wide network and special programmes during the 2014-2020 funding period. Up to €257.3m have been made available by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for these funding programmes.

Cross-border ETC funding programmes

Cross-border funding programmes are intended to intensify (especially economic) cooperation of regions near both sides of a state border. 

Cross-border ETC funding programmes with Austrian involvement:

Austria-Hungary (,

Austria-Czech Republic (,

Slovakia-Austria (,

Slovenia-Austria (,

Austria-Bavaria (,

Italy-Austria (,

Alpenrhein-Lake Constance-Hochrhein (

Transnational and EU-wide ETC funding programmes

The transnational and EU-wide cooperation, network and special ETC programmes are used for promoting the supraregional cooperation of national, regional and local project partners to achieve a higher territorial integration within Europe.  

Transnational and EU-wide ETC funding programmes with Austrian involvement:

Alpine Space (,

Central Europe (,

Danube Transnational (,

Network programme INTERREG EUROPE (,

Special programme ESPON (,

Special programme URBACT II (,

Special programme INTERACT (

Macro-regional EU strategies for the Danube and Alpine regions

The macro-regional EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR) and for the Alpine Region (EUSALP) have been initiated by the European Union as a voluntary political framework process intended to provide opportunities for people living in these large regions to enhance cooperation in certain priority fields and offer better prospects for higher education, employment and prosperity.  

EUSDR ( participants include nine EU Member States (DE, AT, CZ, SK, SI, HU, RO, BG and HR), three candidate countries (MN, RS, BA) and two third countries (UA and MD). The programme is currently chaired by Romania, with Croatia following in 2020. 

EUSALP ( comprises 48 regions in five EU member States (AT, F, DE, IT, SI) and two third countries (CH, FL) with Italy currently chair-in-office to be succeeded by France in 2020. 

Last Modified: 16.05.2019 15:25