Opening speech by Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to the Business Forum at the 2010 Ambassadors Conference in Berlin on 7 September 2010

07.09.2010 - Speech

-- translation of advance text --

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am absolutely delighted to be able to welcome so many of you here to the Weltsaal at the Federal Foreign Office. I have been told that interest in the Business Forum at the Ambassadors Conference has never been as great as this year. This I find very gratifying, as it suggests you are optimistic about our country’s opportunities and about its economic development.

I should like to extend a very warm welcome to the President of the Federation of German Wholesale, Foreign Trade and Services, Mr Anton Börner. Thank you very much for agreeing to address our Business Forum.

I would also like to welcome the top man at the Federal Economics Ministry, Federal Economics Minister Rainer Brüderle, acting for the first time as something of a joint host at this event with us at the Federal Foreign Office. This is the first time that we, in our capacities as Economics Minister and Foreign Minister, have opened this Business Forum together. And I am delighted, Rainer, that you will be speaking to our many guests here today.

That, too, is undoubtedly an expression of cooperation. Allow me to welcome our many guests of honour, particularly of course the representatives of the parliamentary groups in the German Bundestag. A warm welcome to all the dignitaries. Protocol would require that they should all be welcomed personally, but in the interest of keeping things short, I will mention just one of their number. It is a privilege to welcome former Federal Economics Minister Professor Helmut Haussmann here today.

This Business Forum is taking place at a time when the German economy is very clearly recovering, catching up, regaining its old strength. After all, Germany’s strength in the world primarily depends not on our military capability or the strength of our forces, although these are all important. No, it is Germany’s economic strength which is the key to our influence and possibilities in the world. Germany’s strength and international image depend not on military capacities, but first and foremost on diplomatic skill, on responsibility and humanity, and on our economic power. Together, these make up our political and moral authority in the world. And that is why I am particularly keen for foreign policy, too, to play its part in ensuring our country’s economic success. When German foreign policy says it wants to promote economic opportunities for German businesses in the world, it may at first seem rather suspect to many people. In other countries, ambassadors and politicians, and even foreign ministers, would be criticized if they did not help their own economy to be successful. But in our case, sometimes, things go in precisely the opposite direction. And to my mind it is important to overcome this. Just as our close friends, our European neighbours, regard it as obvious that politics should open doors in the world for the country’s own companies, the same must become obvious in Germany. And some of these debates we are having – and here I don’t only mean the debates of recent weeks, but those of recent months as well – about whether politics is the business world’s lackey when it tries to improve business opportunities – would be absolutely inconceivable in other countries in Europe no less sovereign or democratic than we are, no less structured and oriented to the rule of law.

Quite simply, the reality is that things in the world are shifting. We are living in a time of upheaval. A time of global upheaval. Things we are concerned with here in Germany, demographic development for instance, have to be discussed beyond the boundaries of national issues at global level: demographic development, i.e. changing age structures in society in Germany, in Europe, in comparison with other young continents. After all, this demographic development is not merely a challenge for us, for our national social security systems. It is also a challenge for foreign policy, because it is just a question of time until the young societies, those booming, dynamic societies which twenty years ago were shrugged off as developing countries, having become major emerging nations, also demand to be political, cultural and intellectual centres. These countries, these regions, won’t be content just to sell us resources and have us sell them products. Rather, they will want a say in “big politics”. That is why, although the G8 is certainly an important format, we are all aware that the G20 is becoming more and more important as a format for shaping globalization. Countries which, twenty years ago, or in my student days, really were still developing countries are now joining us as equal partners at international level at the round table or negotiating table. And not just when it comes to the area for which Rainer Brüderle is responsible, namely economic policy, but also, of course, when it comes to the Middle East or crisis regions, or global issues. A country like Turkey, for example, regards its tremendous economic development as entitling it to have a say on other issues. That’s what we’re experiencing just now, not least in discussions on strategic orientation in Turkey. A country like Brazil, for example, with its amazing success story of recent years, not only claims the right to speak with us on economic issues, most recently at the German-Brazilian Economic Forum in Munich, but also, when President Lula or soon his successor appears on the world stage, then with the authority of his own economy, his own society. He goes to the Middle East, for instance, and tries to make his mark on the peace process.

Brazil, Argentina, China – all these upcoming countries are, of course, to a certain extent new competitors for us. But first and foremost they embody huge opportunities. They are markets for German products. And we are working hard to make these countries Germany’s partners when it comes to peace, security and prosperity in the world too.

As an export nation, Germany needs to keep a very close eye on developments in the world. And I’m quite sure that Rainer Brüderle, as Economics Minister and as one who has many years – actually, ungallant as it may be to say it – decades of experience in international politics, will be saying something about the markets, about the possibilities for cooperation. But what I am also concerned with is partnership that goes beyond economic considerations, partnership which emerges from positive economic development to bring stability, prosperity and peace.

With its 229 missions abroad, the Foreign Service is a true global network. And all the heads of mission you might talk to here today also have a dense network of contacts in their host country. They know who to talk to and can help open doors.

This may not be very important for a huge, globally operating company with tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of staff. Big companies like that are able to establish their own representations to conquer markets all around the world. But the many small and medium-sized enterprises are highly dependent on finding open doors at the chambers of commerce abroad, but also at our diplomatic missions, so that our diplomatic missions can in turn open other doors for them. These smaller companies are not in a position to keep up a dense network of representatives and offices around the world. That is why a sensible external economic affairs policy is predominantly in the interest of SMEs. And, incidentally, in the interest of their workers and the jobs they create.

The environmentfor exports and investments abroad certainly hasn’t got any easier. In fact, in some countries it has become much more complicated.

German companies and German products are highly regarded abroad. “Made in Germany” was once intended as a taint on German products. But for a long time now “Made in Germany” has been a sign of the quality of German firms. What’s behind “Made in Germany”? What do people think of when they read that? Firstly, quality and reliability. And this reputation for reliability which German products rightly have is one which German politics needs to have abroad too, because the two go together. This is our excellent calling card.

So the economic sphere presents a great opportunity for our country, and expressly also for foreign policy. Foreign policy is globalization policy. I don’t simply mean globalization of markets; I am calling for a comprehensive interpretation of globalization. It is also a matter of the globalization of values.

When we talk about globalization in Germany, we occasionally let fall the disparaging word “globalism”. A real process is turned into an “ism”, an ideology. As if we could just close our eyes and the rest of the world would immediately show consideration to Germany and Central Europe. You all know that this is not the case. Indeed, everyone in this country feels that this is not the case. But somehow we haven’t yet really taken it on board. Globalization isn’t just about trade, the exchange of goods, economic relations; no, globalization is also about the spread of values, of the rule of law. And the businesspeople gathered here today know full well that the rule of law is not just a human rights or civil rights goal which stirs our hearts; rather, it is of course also a question of reliability. Countries which cannot give their own citizens rule of law structures will not be regarded as reliable sites for investment. There is a connection here too. This is not the primacy of economics in human and civil rights, but rather it is the idea that countries with a rule of law deficit have to have it made clear to them: it is right for you, for your development, to embrace the rule of law and to completely accept and practise human rights.

Of course it is also a matter of modern infrastructure in developing and emerging economies, or of easier access to water and electricity. But this is not merely an act of humanity. Nor is it merely altruism, solidarity between individuals, solidarity between nations and countries; rather it is also a chance to get orders for German companies in the energy or infrastructure sector. Having visited many countries in my first few months in office, I can tell you that Germany has an extremely good reputation.

Development and prosperity in turn lead to stability, security and peace in the world. Economic development stabilizes societies. Increasing prosperity, particularly in poorer countries, stabilizes societies and inclines them more to peace. Wherever people have no chance to make anything of their lives, wherever people are in despair, they are naturally vulnerable to extremism and then also fundamentalism and terrorism. This is one of the reasons why we at the Federal Foreign Office put so much effort into handling crisis regions. It is not just because it is, in a way, a debt to humanity, but also because it is in our own interest to bear in mind the link between stabilization and economic and social opportunities in these countries, and thus also a peaceful world.

Latin America is one of Germany’s partner regions. Four weeks ago, the Federal Government adopted a comprehensive Latin America Strategy. We want to raise our relations with the continent to a new qualitative level. Latin America is the key focus of this year’s Ambassadors Conference. We share common values with many countries in the region. This is the solid foundation for increased cooperation. Germany should participate in the mood of change and the amazing dynamism to be seen on the continent. The opportunities and potential of enhanced cooperation with Latin America are far from exhausted. I propose an annual meeting of businesspeople and diplomats along the lines of the annual conference of the Asia-Pacific Committee, where we can develop concrete initiatives for increased cooperation with Latin America. We are ready to do this.

We are thinking beyond large-scale natural resources. We know, for example, that a country like Brazil is hugely committed to renewable energies. Here we can contribute German cutting-edge technologies. These are important cooperation projects from which everyone, but especially our partners, will benefit.

Over the next few months and years, I predict, Latin America will come more and more to the fore. The world will be looking to Brazil during the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. And we saw ourselves with our “summer fairytale” just how a major sporting event like that can change a country’s image. Suddenly the world realized that we Germans can be cheerful and uninhibited (though we always knew it of ourselves), and that Germany can have good weather (though we know, of course, that that’s always the case). Overnight, Germany’s image in the world changed completely, as many of you experienced. The same thing happened this summer with South Africa. Think back to everything the esteemed observers and critics wrote before the World Cup; they implied that a World Cup tournament in South Africa was bound to end in crime and murder, that the South Africans were incapable of organizing such an event. But South Africa was a wonderful host and changed the world’s view both of that country and of the entire African continent, as I heard recently from Africans themselves at the African Union summit. Major events like these are guaranteed to affect us here: not just because of the sport, but also because they present huge opportunities, for investment for example – from the construction of stadiums to tourism marketing.

At global level German foreign policy is committed to fair framework conditions. We need global institutions which are universally accepted and capable of action. This is true of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as well as the World Trade Organization. We are approaching the necessary reforms resolutely. On international trade policy in particular, we must throw our entire weight onto the scale to ward off dangers to the world economy from a renewed bout of protectionism. Only free and open markets lead to development and growth. It is very gratifying that the Federal Economics Minister has put this right at the top of his agenda.

I am saying this not least with an eye to a country which is rightly taking up all our attention just now. As we are all aware, the floods in Pakistan in recent weeks have caused unimaginable damage and suffering. We Germans acted quickly to provide effective aid. When I say “we Germans”, I mean not only the Government and state institutions, but also our citizens, something which is never highly enough appreciated. It means a great deal for our image in the world when our citizens respond so actively and so caringly in such situations. But what happens afterwards? After this immediate humanitarian aid, it is a question of what we can do for a country like Pakistan so that it remains stable, so that it doesn’t crumple, collapse in economic terms. Here, again, foreign policy and economic policy need to work together, for example in an initiative I have just launched in Europe to open up channels for trade for products from Pakistan. A not uncontroversial move, as you all know, but presumably more sustainable than the help needed now in the short term but which naturally cannot be viable in the long term.

In this connection the Federal Economics Ministry and the Federal Foreign Office are pulling in the same direction. Rainer Brüderle and I have been in complete agreement on this for many years. You’ll have realized that we didn’t just meet each other for the first time in the Cabinet.

We want to make use of new opportunities for Germany across the world. But we will not be losing sight of our partners right here on our doorstep. And this brings me to the last thought I’d like to share.

Of course we export a lot to East Asian countries and everyone is talking about China and the domestic changes it will have to undergo so that it can be even more important and attractive for us in economic terms. But – and maybe I’ll surprise some of you now – Germany still exports more to the Netherlands than it does to China. So I’ll just say one thing: we must value Europe. Not merely in economic terms, but especially as the major project for peace, freedom and prosperity on our continent. I say this because Europe is very often spoken of carelessly: Rainer Brüderle, other colleagues and I could all tell tales about that. Of course it is unbelievably tiring sometimes to discuss things for hours, sometimes through the night, and to negotiate with countries where you wonder why they’re vetoing things and what their interest could be in doing so. Of course it is strenuous to negotiate through the night, but the fact that the European cooperative model replaced the confrontation model that previously existed on our continent is a tremendous historic achievement by those who held positions of responsibility before us. It’s better to negotiate through the night than to be at odds with countries on your own continent. Just over ten years ago we still had wars in Europe. Even if Europe had achieved nothing more than several decades of peace on our continent, it would still have been worthwhile.

This, to my mind, is more important than the issue of a single market with almost five hundred million people and the opportunities inherent in the single currency. But I would also say that European integration, the single market and single currency were success stories for Germany in particular, and especially for the German economy. That is why we must work together to promote this European ideal. Europe will only be strong if it is firmly supported by the people of Europe – and ensuring that this is the case is not a matter for policymakers alone.

Reliability must be the trademark of European economic and financial policy too. This means rigorous rules for swift debt reduction and on new borrowing. And these rules must actually be enforced. Anyone who ignores the joint responsibility, persists in reporting false figures, manipulates statistics, becomes overindebted, does not budget in a sound, serious manner, cannot simply get away with it in Europe. This applies to both small and large countries. This applies to others and also to us. The Stability and Growth Pact needs an automatic sanctions regime so that whenever anyone violates the joint responsibility it will have immediate consequences. I am firmly convinced of this and negotiations must take place on this now. It is in the interests of all euro states committed to a healthy euro, and anyone not sticking to the rules must not be allowed to get any more money from the EU Structural Funds. These sanctions must apply to all, no matter how big or powerful a country might be in Europe. We want a European Union of responsibility and we are enthusiastic Europeans, but what we don’t want is a transfer union in Europe where basically everyone can behave irresponsibly without repercussions. That is not on. Anyone wishing to protect Europe will have to change the rules on this.

You all know that foreign and domestic policy are becoming ever more closely interlinked. You see this in the climate debate and also, for instance, in what we discussed yesterday with the Foreign Minister of Mexico.

I am delighted at and congratulate the Federal Economics Minister on the successful negotiations on energy policy and of course on the fact that a rational energy mix has been agreed. This is also of great significance for foreign policy, and here I come to the close. It is of course true that we discuss energy policy from the point of view of environmental protection and climate change, subjects we will shortly be considering in Cancún in Mexico. But energy policy is more than just a question of ecology, economics or the affordability of energy; rather, it is also a question of our foreign-policy sovereignty. If we make ourselves too dependent on one energy supplier, we are making ourselves not only economically dependent but also politically impressionable. And that is something we must always bear in mind. If we want to retain our sovereignty in foreign policy, then we have to acknowledge that our economy is best based on an energy mix. Hence the decisions of yesterday and the day before. I believe this to be right; energy policy, more than virtually any other field, shows just how interlinked foreign policy and economic policy really are.

Thank you for your attention. I now look forward to hearing what the Federal Economics Minister has to say to us.

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