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Parliamentary State Secretary Burgbacher, State Secretary Ilka, Mr Fichtner, Dr Weiler, ladies and gentlemen,
I was delighted to be asked to open this external economic affairs day for medical technology and laboratory equipment.
Given the positive response and the large number of participants in the last three years, this external economic affairs day is now being held for the fourth time here in the Europasaal of the Federal Foreign Office. It is the result of the work of a strong team, a real team effort.
It almost goes without saying but let me point out nonetheless how pleased I am to see the good and constructive cooperation within the German Government between the Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. The same holds true for our cooperation with SPECTARIS and the German Healthcare Export Group and with German businesses which also foster this cooperation in ZVEI (German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers Association), with the German Healthcare Partnership, with Germany Trade and Invest and in other working groups and fora.
Germany can be proud of its products and services in international healthcare. That is why the Federal Foreign Office in 2010 identified medical technology and the healthcare industry as a focus for its external economic promotion and has since hosted numerous events.
We regularly talk to the embassies in Berlin about the strengths of German healthcare, medical technology and pharmaceutical research and encourage them to promote partnerships between their countries and cutting-edge German technology. In May this year, we hosted a breakfast in the Federal Foreign Office for ambassadors and entrepreneurs focusing on medical technology. During the visit of the Indonesian President Yudhoyono in March, we brought together German entrepreneurs and high-ranking guests. Together we looked at what Germany can do to help further develop healthcare in Indonesia.
Today’s external economic affairs day is also intended to contribute to the international success of German medical technology and German health services.
With the slogan “Competence and Networks for Hightech SMEs” we want to provide you with a forum in which to discuss the global challenges faced by your sector which is constantly changing and developing with a view to securing the best possible market position internationally. We share the goal of anchoring and building on Germany’s standing as one of the leading exporters of healthcare products and services.
The healthcare sector is one of the world’s fastest growing fields and will continue to gain in importance. Given the demographic change, it is not just the general need for healthcare that is increasing but also the demands made of the products and services themselves.
Germany is well positioned here. Particularly in the medical technology sector, the words “Made in Germany” have long enjoyed a very good reputation internationally. The quality and reliability of German medical technology products and services, as well as German businesses’ role as market leader in technology, have played no small part in building this tremendous reputation. German companies in the health sector are operating throughout the world and are working with their know-how, technology and products in many countries to ensure that people, literally, feel better.
At the last external economic affairs day for medical technology and laboratory equipment, we focused particularly on the BRICS – rightly so as rapid developments in many of these countries are also to be seen in the health sector and offer a multitude of new opportunities for your businesses. Yet, companies in these countries, particularly in China and Brazil, are also turning into strong competitors for German businesses when it comes to securing contracts.
Alongside the BRICS, other new global players are emerging and have become the engine of the global economy. What is more, their economic strength lends them political clout. They are important partners for us in politics, in business and in healthcare.
That is why we want to look more closely today at new markets with vast potential for the German healthcare industry. I am thinking here of Latin America, more specifically of Mexico and Colombia, and also of countries in south-east Asia, particularly Indonesia. In these countries, the populations continue to grow considerably. Yet in these countries, too, there are indicators that a demographic shift is underway meaning the population is also ageing. Their economic success has encouraged the emergence of a middle class that is both health-conscious and self-confident. This middle class in these countries expects their governments to provide a good and functioning yet affordable healthcare system.
Many governments have recognized the trend and consider Germany to be an important partner. Take, for example, Indonesia where the Federal Chancellor and the Indonesian President last year issued the Jakarta Declaration calling for cooperation to be stepped up in the fields of medical technology, hospital management, the promotion of traditional medicine, the development of the insurance sector and of standards.
When it comes to tapping the potential of these growth markets and also our own potential, the Federal Foreign Office, the German embassies and consulates-general all around the world can help. I encourage you to use these networks so we can hold our own on highly competitive markets.
Unfortunately, in more and more countries politicians and authorities feel the need to protect their own healthcare industry by building ever higher barriers to market entry. Others want to force investors to have high local content shares believing they can thereby attract investment in their own country.
They are forgetting here that the import of medical hightech always goes hand in hand with a considerable transfer of application know-how. They are forgetting that German SMEs are looking for suitable partners with which to enter the market in these countries who they can then train to provide customer service, to instruct users and service technicians and to develop applications suitable for the local market. Those who shut off their markets to German hightech SMEs are preventing local clinics and patients benefiting from this advanced technology and closing their doors to this training and competence.
Finally, let me ask all of you to use the networks and instruments made available by the Federal Government for your international business.
I hope that more and more German SMEs will enjoy increasing success in exporting their products thus improving Germany’s economic standing and competitiveness on the world stage.
Let me also take this opportunity to draw your attention to two other events here in the Federal Foreign Office which may be of interest. The Business Forum held as part of the Conference of the Heads of German Missions is going to be on 27 August 2013. This year, too, we are expecting more than a thousand representatives from associations and businesses who want to talk to our ambassadors and consuls-general about economic trends. You are warmly invited to attend.
From 20 to 22 October 2013, the World Health Summit is to be held in the Federal Foreign Office for the first time with Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso as patrons. The Summit will bring together players covering all aspects of healthcare: politicians, scientists, entrepreneurs, non-governmental organizations to name but a few. Issues which are relevant to business, for example research and development or affordable health insurance for all will play a major role this year. I am sure the World Health Summit will be a very interesting event for you.
I hope you all have a successful external economic affairs day with good talks, good discussions and, of course, good business.