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Ambassadors Conference: "multilateralists" are in demand
15/10 2018 // International

Ambassadors Conference: "multilateralists" are in demand

Representatives of German industry and the German diplomats met at the Business Day of the Ambassadors Conference in the Federal Foreign Ministry* after a one-year break. Trump and Brexit governed the conversations on and off the stage.

Around 1,000 people participated in the Business Day of the Ambassadors' Conference in the Federal Foreign Office. Foto: Tobias Anslinger / BME e.V.

It was a "roller coaster ride", which we are currently experiencing in foreign, trade and economic policy. It was with this image that Miguel Berger, Head of the Department of Economics and Sustainable Development in the Foreign Office, welcomed the approximately 1,000 guests of the Business Day of the 16th Conference of the heads of German diplomatic missions in Berlin, where BME was again a partner this year. He focused directly on the guiding theme of this year's Foreign Trade Meeting: "Between Protectionism and State Capitalism - Challenges for a Rules-Based Trading Regime." Such a rules-based trading regime, which was finally demanded by Prof. Michael Hüther in the BIP interview, was the basis of economic activity.

But it is also clear that these rules have been lifted for some time from several sides – especially from the United States. "We are doing well to adjust to a different way of working with the US", said Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser. According to a study by the IMF, trade conflicts are currently the biggest risk to the global economy. "We experience attacks on free trade from an unfamiliar direction", said Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in his opening speech to the "multilateralists", as he called the present company of representatives, diplomatically.

Further strengthening of the internal market is necessary
Maas urged company leaders to help break down trade barriers. "Europe must hold out and speak with one voice", said the minister, who relies on a strong EU in the fight against trade barriers – despite or perhaps because of the approaching Brexit. Brexit would create trade friction between the EU and the UK, but it should not undermine the EU's economic fundamentals. It is therefore important to continue working on strengthening the European internal market. Simon Coveney, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ireland, later in his speech even called for a deadline for the realisation of the internal market, mentioning 2022 as the target dateline. He emphasised the importance of rules and commitment in international trade.

Foreign Minister Maas also demanded fair rules for all market participants in trade with China. The "New Silk Road", for example (see also the title story in BIP 5/2018, which appeared on 7 September), is a great opportunity for the German economy. "But is China also willing to make it a platform for everyone involved?" asked Maas. In order to influence China, the EU is also dependent on the US. "Therefore, a further escalation of the US-China trade dispute also affects Germany", said Maas. Angela Titzrath, CEO of the Port of Hamburg, spoke of the "era of ambidexterity" in relation to China: on the one hand, many companies are already working closely with China on a market basis, and, on the other hand, they must guard against China's superiority.

Germany also exports values
In spite of all these upcoming challenges, Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser emphasised Germany's leading role – but at the same time called for a corresponding awareness: "The world looks much more at Germany than we think. We should always be aware that we are not only exporting great products, but also standards and values. That's why we should always be committed to presenting our country as a controlled country", concluded Kaeser.

In various plenary and podium discussions throughout the day, further urgent topics were discussed - digitisation, mobility, sustainability, climate change and the energy transition.

* From the Business Day of the Ambassadors' Conference in the Federal Foreign Office, reported by Tobias Anslinger, BME

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