The Core of Europe

BERLIN (Own report) – In view of the growing rivalry with China, business officials and foreign policy makers in Germany are warning against the performance of EU critical forces in the European elections in May. “Alone, no individual European country” could “play a major role” in the global competition, says Eric Schweitzer, President of the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK). German companies need the EU’s single market, the “core of Europe,” as an economic foundation, to assert themselves on a global level against companies from the People’s Republic of China and the USA. Should EU critical “populists” – regardless of their political orientation – obtain more influence in the European Parliament, “the future of the German economy” would also be at risk, according to DIHK Chief Executive Martin Wansleben. Dieter Kempf, President of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) is pleading for business representatives to commit themselves “audibly in favor of an open Europe.” At the same time, German businesses are openly demanding that their interests be imposed within the EU – a main reason for the growth of influence of “populists” in other EU member countries.

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Lying in Wait

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PYONGYANG/BERLIN (Own report) – Taking advantage of North Korea’s strategic reorientation, Germany’s FDP-affiliated Friedrich Naumann Foundation is resuming its activities in that country. Recently, the North Korean leadership officially ended its policy of a balanced build up of its military and the economy, to prioritize the country’s economy, a move, experts note, President Kim Jong Un had been seeking to make for years. However, he initially prioritized the development of the nuclear deterrence capability, to safeguard against a possible US attack. He is now seeking to have UN sanctions lifted, to allow foreign companies into the country. Important steps have already been made. Possibly the Naumann Foundation – which had established contacts to Pyongyang already in 2002 and in 2004 organized a workshop on the country’s “economic modernization” – also played a role. Its activities should now intensify. German companies, according to reports, are “lying in wait”.

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Export World Champion under Pressure

BERLIN (Own report) – With intense shuttle diplomacy, members of the German government are seeking to avert the impending US punitive tariffs on European goods and the loss of access to the important US market. Following Germany’s Finance Minster Olaf Scholz’s visit to the US capital yesterday, Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected in Washington on Friday. Already in the run up to these visits, Berlin seems ready to envisage a revival of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This strategic decision is accompanied by a clear frontline position against China, as was resolutely demanded by the Trump administration. In addition, German-Russian business relations are increasingly under attack in Washington. At the same time, EU criticism of Germany’s unilateral trade policies is growing. Germany’s export oriented economy is particularly vulnerable to the protectionism that is gaining strength on a global scale. Berlin’s Beggar-thy-Neighbor-Policy could prove a strategic disadvantage under these new global economic conditions. Continue reading

Rebuilding Syria

BERLIN/DAMASCUS (Own report) – German companies are seeking to favorably position themselves for participation in Syria’s post-war reconstruction. Following the Damascus International Fair, which closed yesterday, the director of the Middle East Department of the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) noted, the development in the country is being “closely observed” and “a series of cautious initial inquiries” are already being registered. The Damascus International Fair is one of the most traditional fairs in the region and was held again, for the first time, since the beginning of the war. Particularly companies from Russia, Iran and China have good prospects for participating in Syria’s rebuilding. Since 2012, the German government has been eager to provide emergency aid and reconstruction. However, this aid was restricted to regions under insurgent control. Idlib Province, today controlled by the al-Qaeda offshoot al-Nusra (renamed Tahrir al-Sham) is one of those regions benefiting.

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Brussels’ Provocations

BERLIN/LONDON (Own report) – German business associations are calling on the EU Commission to end its Brexit provocations. An unorderly Brexit would entail enormous costs for the German economy, the President of the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) warned; therefore an amicable Brexit agreement with London must be reached. The Federation of German Industries (BDI) expressed a similar view. The head of the EU’s Commission’s recent audacious financial demands and deliberate indiscretions have stirred massive resentment in the United Kingdom and were rightfully considered an attempt to influence Britain’s upcoming parliamentary elections. Observers attribute these indiscretions to EU Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker’s German Chief of Staff, Martin Selmayr (CDU), who is currently playing a key role in the Commission’s Brexit negotiations’ preparations. The German Chancellery is now calling for restraint in view of the severe damage a hard Brexit could entail for the German economy. Continue reading

The Sanctions Debate

BERLIN/MOSCOW (Own report) – In the prelude to Chancellor Merkel’s visit to Russia, German business associations and foreign policy experts are urging that the policy of sanctions be ended. They argue that sanctions practically have become ineffective, since Russia’s economy has withstood these trade restrictions and is now even recovering. The boycott has also damaged the EU’s image and that of the USA in Russia and, even though intended to weaken, it has helped to stabilize the Russian government. Moreover, Russian orders, that German businesses had once expected, were increasingly going to competitors, for example in China – and are ultimately lost. However, German economists still see Russia as a lucrative market. According to an analysis by the Bertelsmann Foundation and Munich’s ifo Institute, a free-trade agreement between the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), congregated around Russia, would generate a growth of 45 billion euros. Government advisors recommend that the sanctions policy be gradually ended. This would not eliminate the prospect that Moscow, at any time, could be forced to its knees with an arms race. Continue reading

After Brexit

BERLIN/LONDON (Own report) – Initial outlines of Berlin’s possible reaction to Britain’s EU exit (“Brexit”) are beginning to seep out to the public. According to a report, government circles, who themselves see no reason to fear the turbulences of the financial markets, are hoping that these will persuade a sufficient number of the British to vote in favor of “remaining.” If this does not work, and the British opt for the Brexit, drastic measures should not be excluded. To avoid negative effects on the German economy, some members of the administration are pleading in favor of granting the UK an EU-associate status, similar to that of Norway. However, “a front should be established” to prevent other EU members from following suit and converting to an associate status. The transition to a “core Europe” remains an option and a discussion of it could be initiated at the end of this week. The foreign ministers of the six EU founding countries have planned an exclusive meeting to discuss the consequences of the British referendum.

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The New Silk Road (I)

And Germany will do it. When push comes to shove, it has historically sided with Russia and other axis powers. China should be no exception. In a time when America is suiciding itself off the world stage, it’s a matter of survival for its allies as they seek more stable and consistent alliances.

 

BEIJING/BERLIN (Own report) – With tensions rising between China and western powers, the German chancellor is using her current visit in Beijing to enhance Sino-German economic cooperation. German investments in the People’s Republic of China had increased to around 60 billion Euros in 2014 – tendency still rising – surpassed only by investments in the USA and a few EU countries. Business representatives are campaigning in favor of stronger German participation in a Chinese trillion-dollar project. This project named the “New Silk Road,” is aimed at bolstering ties between Eastern Asia and Europe. The project, also on the agenda of today’s German-Chinese government consultations, has two components, overland and maritime transport routes. Trade by train from Chongqing to Duisburg and by ship through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean will be enhanced. While German companies hope for lucrative business deals, strategists warn that the New Silk Road could enhance Beijing’s global influence – and ultimately break the western powers’ global dominance.

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