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Business Briefs

Aldi demands apology over slur; Schröder told to keep quiet on monetary policy; center-left leaders agree on trade reforms; IG Metall to elect new board.

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Trouble down under for German discount giant Aldi

Aldi demands apology for Australian’s remarks

German discount supermarket giant Aldi has called on Australian businessman Dick Smith to apologise over remarks he made on a number of current affairs programs in May. Smith claimed that Aldi was a secretive organization and its profits went back to Germany. Aldi Australia Managing Director Michael Kloeters has written to Smith, asking him to apologize and "desist in making any further inappropriate allegations against the company." Kloeters pointed out that contrary to sending profits home to Germany, Aldi had invested more than AS$750 million in Australia over the past two years and created more than 1,000 permanent part-time jobs for Australians. Kloeters also rejected Smith's claim that Aldi did not want to sell Dick Smith Foods products in its stores.

Bundesbank official tells Schröder to keep quiet

Hermann Remsperger, chief economist at Germany's Bundesbank, has urged Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to refrain from making public comments on monetary policy. "I believe everyone is responsible for their own policy areas. The financial markets are especially sensitive to public comments from leading politicians," Remsperger said in an interview with Financial Times Deutschland. Remsperger's comments come at a time of increasingly strained relations between politicians and central bankers. Last week, the chancellor indirectly urged the European Central Bank (ECB) to consider intervening in the currency markets in an effort to help European exporters by weakening the euro. He has also repeatedly called on the ECB to lower interest rates to try to stimulate growth.

Third Way leaders agree trade reforms

Center-left leaders from five continents pledged on Monday to open up markets to the world's poorest nations at a meeting in Britain on Monday. The “Third Way” advocates, hosted by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, committed themselves to ensuring that a coming world trade meeting in Mexico, brings down trade barriers that block poorer countries' products and are blamed for entrenching them in poverty. All the leaders present, including German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, accepted the need for reform of current trade restrictions and agreed to push for other nations to adopt the proposals at the coming World Trade Organization's meeting in Cancun in September.

Steel chairman calls for end to power struggle

Klaus Zwickel, chairman of IG Metall, Europe's largest industrial trade union, has proposed an unscheduled meeting next month to end a power struggle following the failed strikes in Germany's eastern states. The meeting would take place on August 30-31 and elect a new board, should it be approved by the union's board on July 23. IG Metall last month halted strikes in eastern Germany -- its worst defeat since 1954 -- after failing to get employers to cut the work week down to 35 hours. "The way is finally clear to end the paralysing blockade and public debate in a transparent and democratic way," said Zwickel at a press conference in Frankfurt.