The round of talks between the Greens boss Annalena Baerbock and the two association presidents Karl Haeusgen from the mechanical engineering association VDMA and Gunther Kegel from the electrical industry association ZVEI has not yet run for ten minutes.
Nevertheless, the moderator Carmen Hentschel would prefer to break off the talk on "Europe 2050 - producing climate neutrality".
“We can actually put an end to this at this point,” says the digital expert.
After all, everyone agrees with each other and understands everything.
But then Haeusgen bursts the collar at the event as part of the digital edition of the world's largest industrial show, the Hanover Fair.
“Before things get too harmonious here,” the entrepreneur introduces, and then sends clear and critical words to the Greens on the subject of regulation.
"The guardrails must not become a tight corset"
He also sees the need for climate neutrality.
And of course politicians have to set guard rails for this.
"However, these guard rails must not become a rigid corset that deprives the industry of all freedoms."
Baerbock had previously described her vision of a completely climate-neutral industry in Germany and Europe.
For this path there must be subsidies from the state, even high subsidies - but also an ambitious regulatory framework on the part of politics.
But many branches of industry are very afraid of this, as Haeusgen reports.
He is happy about the innovation euphoria of the Greens, but not about the regulatory euphoria at the same time.
The fact is that in many points it is clearly going too far.
Support comes from association partner Kegel.
"Regulation must arise in dialogue," says the ZVEI boss.
Source: WORLD infographic
Because it must remain manageable for the economy and, above all, technically feasible.
“Innovations offer tremendous leverage.” And that is always better than constant bans.
Especially since the economy must remain competitive in order to secure the country's prosperity.
The two industry representatives are currently focusing on the topic of combustion engines, for example.
Haeusgen sees this as the perfect example of the fine line when it comes to regulation.
The introduction of the Euro 6 emissions standard was correct at the time.
"Otherwise engine development would not be where it is now."
The now planned Euro 7 standard, on the other hand, is over-turned and the famous little screw is too much.
“So everything falls apart.” Instead, Haeusgen would like more technology openness.
“Maybe the internal combustion engine will be hanging dead over the fence in five or ten years anyway.
But we shouldn't shoot him from the start. "
Baerbock, however, cannot be dissuaded from her line.
Smiling and occasionally nodding her head, she listens to the industry representatives, only to amiably but firmly reiterating her party's plans, combined with a general criticism of the current federal government made up of CDU / CSU and SPD.
When it comes to climate neutrality, a lot of time has been lost over the past few years and, as a result, they have missed setting the course themselves.
“Now we're lagging behind.
And that's why we have to have the courage to jump into a new era - with the appropriate guidelines and framework conditions. "
However, Baerbock still wants to talk about the specific design.
"It's about finding the best solutions together." That and how it works was shown by the Greens Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann in Baden-Württemberg, where the charging station infrastructure for electric cars is now the best in Germany after many discussions with the automotive industry.
“It is important to have clear guidelines as to where the journey is going,” says Baerbock.
"We probably still have a passionate debate ahead of us."
Then there was also the topic of green hydrogen, the use of which the Greens want to control and limit for individual areas due to a lack of capacity, but also on the subject of free trade agreements, which the Greens are much more skeptical of than the business associations.
A common denominator was not found, but Baerbock assured that he would be available for discussions.
The Federation of German Industry (BDI) is also banking on this.
"Like the BDI, I am pragmatic and will work with everyone who is elected to the Chancellery and the ministries," said Association President Siegfried Russwurm when asked how afraid he was of a green Chancellor.
"But I expect the politically responsible people to be open and pragmatic when discussing the best solutions, especially when it comes to investing in the future," Russwurm told WELT.
"The industry relies on a course of politics that trusts market economy mechanisms and strengthens the innovative strength of companies."
Source: WORLD infographic
This industry is currently gearing up for an upswing after the corona crash.
At the start of the digital Hanover Fair, the major trade associations are optimistic for the year 2021. The VDMA, for example, has increased its forecast for the second time within a few months and is now assuming a production volume of 213 billion euros.
This corresponds to an increase of seven percent, three percentage points more than previously forecast.
"Incoming orders are clearly on a growth path," explains Association President Haeusgen, referring to the recently published figures for February.
In that month, the machine-builders achieved double-digit growth rates for the first time since October 2018.
So he now sees a V-curve after all.
Foreign business is the driving force behind this development.
Demand is particularly high in Asia, especially in China.
But the German mechanical engineering companies are also expecting numerous new orders from the USA: The gigantic economic stimulus package from the new US President Joe Biden promises good business in the coming months.
That is already having an impact on the employment situation.
“The companies are already starting to hire new employees,” reports VDMA chief economist Ralph Wiechers.
However, it is also part of the truth that capacities were reduced in the Corona year 2020: Almost 1.01 million employees mean a decrease of four percent or around 50,000 jobs and at the same time the lowest level since 2016. An even greater reduction was prevented by short-time working.
According to the VDMA, around 250,000 employees were affected at peak times; this number is currently around 90,000.
The electrical industry reports similar stabilization tendencies.
“We expect production growth of five percent for the industry and could thus make up four fifths of last year's production decline,” announced ZVEI President Kegel.
If you look at the orders received in the first three months, things could possibly go even better.
Here, too, the biggest growth driver is China.
"The People's Republic took a key position in the pandemic as far as German exports are concerned," reports Kegel.
"The other regions are now catching up."
Because this is also the case in other sectors, the BDI now feels compelled to increase its export forecast.
Industrial exports are expected to rise by 8.5 percent this year, announced President Russwurm.
So far, his association had assumed only six percent growth, after there had been a minus of 9.3 percent in the previous year.
"Foreign trade is becoming the central growth lever - especially with the US and China as the economic engines," says Russwurm.
North America and Asia would bring the global economy back on its toes.
For industrial production as a whole, the BDI expects a strong plus of eight percent compared to the previous year.
In 2020 there was a slump of almost ten percent due to the Corona crisis.
"Industry is currently the anchor of stability in the German economy," says Russwurm.
“It is largely responsible for the economic recovery.” The incoming orders are already above the previous year's and even pre-crisis levels.
There is a risk of delivery bottlenecks for microchips, steel and copper
Russwurm therefore called for additional and targeted growth impulses in order to fuel this upswing, such as greater loss offsetting, special depreciation for investments, the expansion of tax research subsidies and a lower tax burden.
Especially since there are signs of delivery problems and can become a problem, especially with microchips, but also with steel and copper.
In mechanical engineering, for example, around a quarter of companies complain about production disruptions as a result of bottlenecks in the supply chains, according to a recent lightning survey.
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