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Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to welcome you all to what is already the fourth agricultural and food industry external economic affairs day at the Federal Foreign Office. We are here thanks to the joint organizational efforts of the Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, and the Federation of German Food and Drink Industries.
Once again, the number of participants has grown since last year. I take that as a sign that we are providing the right things. We want our work to be a support to you. We want you to be successful.
Our agricultural and food industry is powered by vast numbers of small and medium-sized enterprises. One of Germany’s greatest strengths is the large proportion of SMEs in much of our economy. Germany’s SMEs are not just an economic quantity; they represent a particular culture of upholding responsibility.
In 2011, the German food industry registered a turnover of 164 billion euros, with exports at a record value of nearly 50 billion. That’s exports accounting for almost a third of the sector’s total turnover.
For a lot of people, the food industry doesn’t immediately spring to mind when they think of German exports. However, Germany’s food industry is global. More perhaps than any others, the products of your sector epitomize quality, the highest standards and reliable deliveries; they constitute an excellent “calling card” for our country. Fine, high-quality products from Germany enjoy a good reputation abroad, and they help shape Germany’s positive image around the world.
It is by the same token that we enjoy, for example, Italian pasta, Swiss cheese and Colombian coffee. Variety is the spice of life.
As any visitor to Cologne’s Anuga food fair can tell you, our dinner plates became globalized a long time ago.
German quality and cutting-edge technology are in demand everywhere, from our established markets in industrialized countries to the rapidly growing emerging economies.
Most of our food exports, around 80 percent, go to the rest of the EU.
Last year, the markets outside the EU recorded an increase of nearly 20 percent (19%) in exports from your sector.
A global shift is taking place. As an exporting nation, Germany has a particular need to see the world as it is right now, and not as it was.
In the space of a few decades, China has become the world’s second largest economy. India, too, is recording extraordinarily dynamic growth. Brazil this year overtook Britain to become the world’s fifth-largest economy. There was a time when the emerging economies depended on the economic performance of the industrialized countries. Today the industrialized countries’ economic performance depends on the dynamism of the emerging economies.
I’m not just talking about the BRICS countries. It’s been evident for some time now that a good many countries have a similar agenda. Viet Nam is one example, Colombia another. We should lose no time in adjusting to that fact – a need which you will find reflected in today’s programme.
Germany is sought-after as a partner across the globe. We are reliable. We seek long-term partnerships which benefit both sides, not quick profits. The excellent reputation enjoyed by German trade and industry is also beneficial to the political side of things – not least when it comes to foreign policy.
This does not mean we are turning politics into a money-making enterprise. What it means is that we recognize the political opportunities which are made possible by our country’s economic strength. Globalization doesn’t undermine the link between economic clout and political influence – it strengthens it.
The Federal Foreign Office has 230 embassies and consulates around the world. Our staff know how things work in our host countries. They can and will open doors for you. I urge you take advantage of that offer.
You have our support at home too, as exemplified by such events as this one and the external economic affairs days we run for other industries. The flagship event is the Business Forum held as part of the Conference of the Heads of German Missions. We will be hosting it on 28 August, and you are all very warmly invited.
Allow me in closing to wish you all the best for a successful external economic affairs day at the Foreign Office.