Interview with German Economic Minister Peter Altmaier

(EurActiv, 10 May 2019) Germany’s Economy and Energy Minister Peter Altmaier met with Claire Stam from EURACTIV Germany. Among other things, they discussed the ‘New Silk Road’, the battery alliance with France, climate change and power lines between northern and southern Germany.

EURACTIV: For the following year, you are proving to be optimistic. With Brexit, the US trade war and Chinese competition, we have to ask: Why are you so optimistic?

Altmaier: It is true. There is insecurity at an international level regarding wholesale relationships. It has a dampening effect on Germany’s economy because we rely heavily on exports.

51% of our industrial products are being exported but the German economy is generally speaking in a robust state. The last years, we have created new jobs and companies have invested in innovation.

That is why I believe this slowing growth can be overcome and that there will be strong economic growth in the second half of the year.


China keeps extending its economic power in Europe. Is this the beginning of the end for the EU as an economic community?

I will do everything to ensure the EU stands at the start and not at the end of a success story.

Then the EU is the best thing that has happened to the peoples of Europe in the last 200 years. That also means that we need to have more discussions on economic policies. The Chinese ‘Silk Road’ strategy is addressing quite a serious problem:

How do we deal with markets in Asia, where billions of people live? These people want to prosper, consume, buy and sell products with Europe. How do we organise logistical and trade relations to ensure products are transported to reach the people.

The Chinese may have recognised this before us Europeans. We presented our own EU-China connectivity strategy just last year. That is quite late; the Chinese were faster than we were.

We now have the task, together with China and other countries in the region, such as Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and many others, to set up a system of trade routes. No one will be able to discriminate, use their political power to abuse or impose a one-way trade. Instead, we would like the trade to be open in both directions for products from many different countries.

That is our goal. We had very serious talks at the ‘Silk Road’ discussions in Beijing. And I think it became clear that this Chinese project can only succeed if it is free from discrimination, if it sees itself obligated to multilateralism, if smaller countries do not lose their independence as a result.

If we have a level-playing field regarding company mergers, and, one very crucial point, Europe needs think about its own strategic interests. Last year, there were attempts to overtake parts of Germany’s electrical power distribution system.

We put a stop to that. The government’s development bank, KfW, took possession of the shares. Because, if possible, we still want to keep critical infrastructure within Germany. Such discussions also need to take place in other countries.

Security interests, economic interests and political interests, they are a unit. And on the basis of these interests, we can maintain and develop fair relations with China. I think China now understands that they should lean towards what should be the standard in today’s global market economy, namely the principles of equality and that respecting the rule of law is the basis for successful trade relations.

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EurActiv, 10 May 2019: Interview with German Economic Minister Peter Altmaier