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Business

Schröder Concludes Visit with U.S. Executives

After meeting with the heads of 15 blue chip American firms, Germany’s Gerhard Schröder returns to Berlin pledging to make even more transatlantic crossings to promote business ties in the future.

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German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (right) with Estee Lauder CEO Fred Langhammer

Friday couldn't have gone better for German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder if it had been dreamt up in central casting. Topping the agenda was a A high-profile visit to the world’s financial center and a meeting with 15 of the most important business leaders in the United States from blue chip firms like Goldman Sachs, General Electric and Walt Disney. Indeed, each of the executives who met with the chancellor represent companies whose overall market capitalization exceeds $1 billion.

Schröder had a clear message for each one.

"I don’t think there’s another European economy that is as interwoven with America as Germany’s," Schröder told executives gathered in New York. "More than 800,000 jobs exist with German subsidiaries (in the U.S.) and, conversely, 500,000 jobs in (American subsidiaries) in Germany. That shows the relationship."

Reforms "right track"

The goal of the chancellor’s two-day trip to New York was to drum up support for foreign investment in Germany – investments he said would be buttressed by current federal structural reforms currently being considered by parliament that would loosen labor laws and cut taxes and modernize Germany’s much-criticized economy.

"I believe that the implementation of the agenda will raise the readiness of American investors to get involved in Germany," Schröder said. "It is seen clearly here that we are on the right track."

The chancellor also conceded that the strong euro has created a problem for German exporters, which makes it more difficult for American companies to purchase European products. Still, Schröder said he saw no signs that the weakness of the U.S. dollar had been the result of deliberate manipulation.

"I think everyone understands that it’s in the interest of America, Germany and Europe for the relation (between the currencies) to level off," Schröder said. "No one in America can really be interested in a weak dollar."

Though Schröder’s agenda did not include meetings with American political leaders, he did deliver a clear political message: Germany is and will remain a close and reliable partner in the international war against terror – even if differences of opinion persist.

"Of course in these talks with business people the question of what consequences the terrorist attacks in Istanbul will have," he said. More than 50 people were killed and at least 450 injured in four suicide bombings in Istanbul this week that targeted Jewish institutions as well as the British consulate and local headquarters of Britain’s HSBC bank.

Countering fears

In addition to his visits with top business leaders, Schröder also met with Jewish community leaders in part to assuage fears that anti-Semitism is on the rise again in Germany in the wake of recent scandals involving publicly elected officials and right-wing groups.

Schröder said Friday that the subject of anti-Semitism had only been discussed in "general form," and that most of his discussion with leaders from 13 Jewish organizations focused on conflict in the Middle East. Those leaders, meanwhile. called on Schröder and other leaders to demonstrate more understanding of Israel’s position in the conflict with the Palestinians.

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