Berlin (dpa) – The stakes are high for German industry with hundreds of thousands of employees. The partial lockdown in Germany in November is creating new uncertainties about how the Corona crisis will continue.
Many companies, for example in the steel and automotive industries, are already facing a difficult structural change: they must become more digital and increase their efforts to protect the climate. And now there is the drama of the American elections with an uncertain outcome.
Industry president Dieter Kempf warned Wednesday of an escalation of the situation. Any phase of uncertainty would be “poison” for relationships. The stakes are too high, Kempf told a digital industry conference: The United States is one of Germany’s most important trading partners. Economy Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) told US President Donald Trump that it was hoped that everyone involved would accept the results and that there would be clarity quickly.
Kempf said: “Regardless of who the future president of the United States will be, German industry would like to see a new beginning in transatlantic relations.” The association has been in difficult waters for the past four years. The United States would ultimately have to refrain from raising or threatening tariffs under the guise of national security. “The tariffs that the United States is raising now are putting pressure on the economy on both sides of the Atlantic.” Altmaier said there has been tension and conflict in many areas in relations with the United States over the past four years. At least it was possible to avoid an escalation.
In Berlin, Trump’s departure from close international cooperation has long been a headache. In addition to trade disputes, there is an American resistance, also supported by Democrats, against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany and a reform of the World Trade Organization.
But the United States is of utmost importance to the German economy. They are the largest single market for the export of “Made in Germany” goods. According to the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Germany exported goods worth 119 billion euros to the US in 2019. 12 percent of all German motor vehicle exports went to the United States and even the 18 percent of all German pharmaceutical exports. However, since the impact of the crown in spring, exports to the US have declined significantly.
Another major problem was that international supply chains were disrupted and parts were missing, so auto plants in Germany, for example, had to temporarily halt production. IG Metall Chairman Jörg Hofmann said Wednesday that in light of the persistently high number of new corona infections, the question was whether the second wave would again lead to a disruption of international supply chains, as in the spring. This could have huge consequences for industry and employment. In a statement by the Alliance for the Future of Industry, made up of the ministry and business associations, it is “essential” that these chains be established more broadly, to avoid dependencies on individual suppliers.
That is why Altmaier wants a more active industrial policy in the EU. This involves the creation of a European production facility for battery cells for electric cars or a European cloud for greater data sovereignty. Given that Europe has to catch up when it comes to the digital technologies of the future, politics and business agree on this. But time is of the essence because corporations in Asia and the US threaten to outrun companies in Germany and Europe.
Then there is climate protection. The EU is planning tougher climate targets. The industry, however, warns of distortion of competition because there are less stringent climate regulations on other continents. Kempf said Wednesday he was very concerned. Care must be taken not to destroy industry on the way to greater climate protection.
Altmaier again promised to support the industry. There could be “green” steel and “green” chemistry. Green transformation and economic success are two sides of the same coin.
But many companies are burdened by the crisis. The longer the recession lasts, the greater the risk that major investments will be postponed, according to the statement from the industrial alliance. Financing conditions would now have to be further improved and tax relief for companies, but many points are controversial in the black-red coalition.