Speech by Minister of State Böhmer at the second Business Forum on Digital Innovation, IT and Communications Technology

30.09.2016 - Speech

--- Translation of advance text ---

Mr Dirks,
Ms Zypries,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the second Business Forum on Digital Innovation, IT and Communications Technology here at the Federal Foreign Office.

You were expecting to see Foreign Minister Steinmeier today, but he is on the way to Jerusalem for the funeral of that great statesman Shimon Peres. The Minister has asked me to stand in for him and to pass on his very best wishes to you all.

I am delighted that this second Business Forum, still a relatively new event for the Federal Foreign Office following the launch last year, has again met with such great interest.

All of you here today know that at a time of digital change the ICT sector, more than any other, is crucial for Germany as an export nation.

For in building “Industrie 4.0”, all areas of the economy are dependent on their digital expertise. Otherwise the transformation of the “old economy” simply will not succeed.

This year, turnover from information technology, telecommunications and electronic entertainment will pass the 160 billion euro mark for the first time. The main motor for growth in the sector is still information technology, which is forecast to grow by three percent to 83.5 billion euros by the end of 2016.

The strongest growth is expected from the software sector, with increased sales of 21.5 billion euros, up 6.2 percent.

Other industries can only dream of growth figures like these! The numbers, however, also reflect the amazing dynamism and speed with which your sector is changing and developing.

Digitisation is lowering barriers, shortening processes and compressing value-added chains. Network effects are becoming far more important than economies of scale in production processes.

This means that for German companies and developers – for you, in other words – successful internationalisation and rapid growth to achieve global relevance are more important today than ever before, at business-to-business level, business-to-customer level and of course business-to-government level.

The Federal Foreign Office has a special role to play in this context.

Together with the Federal Economic Affairs Ministry and all partners involved in promoting foreign trade, we must and will provide even closer and more intensive backing for these urgently needed processes of internationalisation by marketing Germany as a business location, attracting investors and providing political support.

We are already doing this wherever we can – and we are getting a great response from our partners abroad.

Let me give you an example.

In May, as part of the German OSCE Chairmanship, we invited government and business representatives from over 60 countries to a connectivity conference, the first in the OSCE context.

Be it about connectivity in air and maritime transport or infrastructure, all the talks focused on digital change, from cross-border networking to legal frameworks.

Our partners in Eastern Europe and Central Asia in particular want to cooperate more closely with Germany on this.

And there are some areas that are still a work in progress, where we in Germany need to be even better.

I am thinking, for instance, of eGovernment or the framework conditions for venture capital – where we in turn can learn from our partners.

Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier has already said this publicly on several occasions, and I am happy to repeat it here today: of course diplomats too need to have a better understanding than in the past of what the digital revolution is actually about.

We are working hard to get our 220 or so missions abroad on board here.

To do the best we can, we need your feedback. After all, you know best what is important when it comes to digitisation; you know best where there are problems abroad; and you know best what challenges your sector is facing.

That is why we regularly incorporate companies’ expertise in our diplomatic work, where appropriate. I did so myself a few months ago in the Australia-Germany Advisory Group. We want to expand trade and investment with Australia.

In particular, we want to improve our research cooperation as well as the exchange of students, scientists and researchers in the field of applied innovations. Companies’ expertise has helped us a great deal here!

By the same token, we invite you to make use of the expertise of our Consulates – whether in San Francisco, Bangalore, São Paulo, New York or Sydney – and of course our Embassies, particularly in Tel Aviv, Tallinn and Singapore.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Through this Business Forum, we at the Federal Foreign Office would like to bring an international angle, if I can put it that way, to the implementation of the Federal Government’s Digital Agenda (from 2014) and the new Digital Strategy 2025.

We are also keeping an eye on the European digital single market and the European Commission’s activities, most recently, for example, towards establishing 5G standards. And as G20 Presidency next year we will be conducting the digital dialogue in that body as well.

We organise events like this one today in Berlin, but also at our Embassies and Consulates abroad, to bring together relevant stakeholders from the business world, civil society and of course the scientific community.

Today we want to talk with you about various topical issues.

We want to discuss the question of how to ensure that you get the skilled workers you need from abroad, quickly and with a minimum of red tape.

Another focal point is data protection. We need and want to talk about the benefits and the limitations of the regulatory process and about the strategic interests of German and European companies. These are issues which directly affect your business models.

The third main point on the agenda today is digital hubs. Ms Zypries, the Federal Economic Affairs Ministry has worked with bitkom and other partners to develop a very exciting concept, which we look forward to discussing with you today.

As we did last year, we would also like to use this Business Forum to take a rather closer look at growth markets abroad that are of interest to us. Last year we looked at Africa. Today we would like to concentrate on Latin America, and especially on Mexico and Argentina.

Federal Minister Steinmeier visited Argentina and Mexico with a large business delegation just a couple of months ago. Both countries are facing digital change head on at all levels.

Mexico in particular seems to us to be a very promising market for German companies, especially start-ups.

Up to the end of 2017, Mexico and Germany will continue to celebrate the Year of Germany in Mexico and the Year of Mexico in Germany. Our aim in organising years like this is to make each side more familiar with the culture, economy, scientific landscape and technological developments in the partner country.

Germany is Mexico’s main trading partner in the EU; German investment there is growing.

More than 1800 companies with German capital participation are registered with the Mexican Secretariat of Economy. In 2015 bilateral trade was worth 17.4 billion US dollars.

We believe that your companies, too, should benefit from this.

Digitisation has not only economic but naturally also political and social repercussions. It opens society up and brings social and economic participation as well as, in many countries, a new debate on the boundaries of freedom of opinion and of the press.

Against this background, too, we who are involved in foreign policy seek direct lines to the business community.

Last but definitely not least, I would like to thank you, Mr Dirks, bitkom and all other partners very much indeed for your cooperation and support.

When it comes right down to it, an event like this lives through personal encounters, and so I am very much looking forward to our continued fruitful and constructive cooperation.

And on that note, I wish you all valuable talks today.

Mr Dirks, you have the floor.

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