At the moment, not a day goes by in the media without U.S. President Donald Trump. There is great uncertainty about the future of trans-Atlantic relations. I just returned from Washington, where I had many discussions with politicians, think tanks representatives, political analysts and entrepreneurs. And it became quite clear: There are different opinions about most issues – also among members of the government. We are in the middle of an intensive process of opinion-forming, which will go on for a while yet; a process we can and must participate in. What also became clear in my discussions: Despite all the criticism and uncertainty about open questions, there are also a number of opportunities. And these opportunities have to be taken.
Our countries are closely connected. And the achievements of the last decades cannot simply be thrown overboard. This interconnection, our history and the values we share, not to mention the profound economic relations will prevail. The transatlantic partnership will continue to develop like every partnership, but for a relationship to function well, both sides have to continually promote it. That means communicating with each other at all levels and not allowing ourselves to be discouraged.
The door remains open for a continuation of fair and open trade between Germany, Europe and the United States.
In the course of many discussions in Washington, I met a number of “free traders“, or supporters of free and fair trade, within government, also among Republicans and senators. That has made me optimistic. The door remains open for a continuation of fair and open trade between Germany, Europe and the United States.
That applies in both directions, for example also for the many successful U.S. companies in Germany and Europe. It is important to maintain and intensify direct contacts to the government and the Trump administration. We cannot emphasize enough that it was above all German companies, which contributed to the prosperity of America through investment and the creation of jobs. Germany’s dual vocational training model is greatly admired in the United States, but by no means everyone in the administration is aware of this.
Apart from presidential directives already made, there are a number of projects still being discussed and worked on. They include tax reform and taxation of exports and imports. It is still too early to talk about concrete results or indications of how they will pan out. The plans have to be passed by a number of committees, and we should participate in these discussions too.
The United States will remain attractive as a location for investors in the future too. It continues to benefit from low energy costs, and an expected clear decrease in corporate taxation is a strong signal for the business sector. The United States is set to remain an attractive market for investment and demand. Exports should be assured fair competitive opportunities in the U.S. market. Economic policy has to give our exports and, above all, our “hidden champions” a competitive edge.
Europe has to argue the case for free trade with the United States in a united and self-assured way. Otherwise there really is a danger of the U.S. president’s focusing priority on bilateral rather than multilateral agreements. Europe has to be seen and understood by the United States as a “single market.”
In conclusion, we have to keep a close eye on what is going on and take a constructive part in the discussions. We cannot leave that task to the politicians alone. We entrepreneurs are also called upon to actively give our opinions and participate in events. Many things cannot be fully appreciated yet, but I do see the possibility to exert influence in all the ongoing discussions. The president would like to make America more prosperous, stronger and safer – but he will only succeed in doing that if he focuses on an open and future-oriented economic policy and a close transatlantic partnership. The United States has benefited for decades from international trade and an open economic climate. We have to communicate intensively and convince the president of the correct answers to the demands of the future. A global networked economy needs a global value chain.
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