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Business

Electronics, Engineering Industries See No Upturn Before 2003

The mood at this year's Hannover Trade Fair will be less than celebratory for Germany's all-important engineering and electronics industries.

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Microscopic chance

Germany's all-important engineering and electronics industries on Monday issued downbeat assessments of their prospects for this year.

VDMA, the association that represents the machine-construction and engineering industry, said it expects production and sales to fall by at least 2% this year.

Meanwhile, ZVEI, the main association for the German electronics industry, said it expects 2002 to bring stagnation. There won't be an upswing until 2003, said the ZVEI's chief, Gotthard Graß, noting that current positive signals pointed to a bottoming-out rather than a true recovery.

Graß and the VDMA's Thilo Brodtmann said the reason why their industries are in the doldrums has less to do with the effects of September 11 than with the failures of German economic policy. Last year should have seen important structural changes in the German economy, and the fact that they didn't come means that the country missed out on the possibility of an upswing, said Graß.

The electronics and engineering industries are closely linked. Both fall within the domain of trade union IG Metall and employers' association Gesamtmetall. And both are represented at the Hannover Trade Fair, the world's largest industry event of its kind.

The two industry-association chiefs on Monday expressed hope that talks between the trade union and industry association will have produced a pay agreement by April, when the Hannover Trade Fair opens.

The Hannover fair's president, Klaus Goehrmann, stressed that despite the downcast mood within the two industries, the fair itself is not suffering the effects of the economic downturn. He said this year's fair is set to attract 6,950 exhibitors, slightly more than last year's.

But he said there is a possibility that Americans' fear of flying post-September 11 will impact on the visitor numbers. He said a decline of up to 10% to 240,000 is possible.

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