Anti-free-trade rhetoric ‘a great concern’


Daniel Andrich is Representative of German Industry and Trade (RGIT) in Washington. In an interview for DW, he shares his views on the importance of free trade for partners on both sides of the Atlantic.

DW: In the US, it is quite common for organizations and business leaders to endorse a presidential candidate. As the Representative of German Industry and Trade (RGIT), who are you supporting?

Daniel Andrich: As a general principle, RGIT does not make its own recommendations for elections. It is important for us that the political framework supports open markets and fair competition and that companies can rely on the principle of legal certainty.

Republican candidate Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked free trade and globalization. He argues that recent trade policy has resulted in a weaker US manufacturing base and a loss of jobs. Trump also said he would withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and renegotiate existing trade agreements. What’s your take on it?

We are monitoring the anti-free-trade rhetoric of the election campaign with great concern. For Germany as an export nation, a smooth exchange of goods with other countries is crucial. However, Germany is not the only beneficiary of free trade. Worldwide, the countries that are strengthened economically are those that are firmly anchored in the global trade network and keep their borders open for people and goods.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate, used to support trade agreements such as TPP, but now says she’s against it because it hurts jobs and wages. That’s quite a U-turn, isn’t it?

As an experienced politician and diplomat, Hillary Clinton understands the importance of free trade. She made this clear during the first TV debate with Donald Trump.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has repeatedly warned against turning back the clock on trade and globalization, arguing this would prolong the world economy’s current problems. Which candidate is more likely to turn back the clock?

No single person can stop the march of time or even turn back the clock by themselves. It is more important to actively shape the changes that are brought on by an interconnected and globalized world. This also includes free trade. The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, underlined more than once during the IMF/World Bank Fall Meeting that free trade is a requirement for creating economic growth, raising living standards and maintaining peace.

In view of both candidates’ critical remarks on free trade agreements, is it safe to assume that TTIP, the proposed EU-US-trade deal, is dead? If so: what are the consequences for German companies in the US?

There are still open issues, but it is important to stress that these are ongoing negotiations. Germany, Europe and the US benefit from close cooperation and TTIP is designed to deepen transatlantic economic relations and to dismantle barriers to trade. A strong TTIP could create and secure jobs, eliminate duplicate testing and certification during product development, and reduce costs for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) looking to access the American market.

What is the most important economic issue the next president needs to address?

Both presidential candidates have recognized the need to invest more in the country’s infrastructure. A good infrastructure is the backbone of a flourishing economy. Unhindered trade can only occur in places where goods can move relatively easily and quickly from point A to B.

The political discourse during this presidential campaign has been described as aggressive, populist and anti-intellectual, and the country seems deeply divided. Do you agree and, if so, what do you think are the reasons for this?

In an environment of economic and social insecurity, we increasingly observe calls for more isolation. The discourse on international trade in the American political sphere is a matter of concern. We have to take the concerns of the people seriously and highlight the positive effects of free transatlantic trade. The economies and overall prosperity of Germany and the United States can only be secured when goods flow easily, when investments can be done in foreign markets, when borders stay open, when locals are hired by foreign-owned affiliates and when a foreign-owned affiliate can be a run by a local CEO.

Two leading German companies, Volkswagen and Deutsche Bank, are facing huge fines and legal procedures for breaking the law in the US. How has this influenced the image of “Made in Germany?”

“Made in Germany” is still in demand worldwide and German industry is exporting more than ever before. The US is the most important export market for Germany, with $114 billion [104 billion euros] in total exports for 2015. The German brand is also strengthened through its job creation and direct investment. German companies employ over 640,000 people in the US. According to the Department of Commerce, investment by German businesses in the US market reached nearly $ 224 billion as of year-end 2014. This demonstrates that “Made in Germany” is strong and that free trade and open markets are vital for the success of the export-oriented German economy.

Daniel Andrich is Representative of German Industry and Trade (RGIT) in Washington. RGIT represents the interests of German industry, in particular the members of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), German Industry (BDI) and the German-American Chambers of Commerce, toward the US Administration, Congress, the German Administration and international organizations like the World Bank and the IMF.

Interview by Andreas Becker


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here