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Corporate German response to Trump mixed

November 9, 2016

The German business community hopes for trade relations with America to remain on a mutually beneficial footing under Donald Trump as new US president, but there are also fears of more protectionist policies.

Bush-Besuch - Ankunft
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

German exporters on Wednesday congratulated Donald Trump for his victory in the US presidential election, saying they were hoping for him to induce "fresh optimism in trade relations" after a "nerve-racking" US election campaign.

In 2015, the United States have become Germany's biggest trading partner, overtaking the eurozone by taking in goods and services to the tune of 174 billion euros ($191 billion).

Anton Börner, head of the German exporters' association BGA, admitted, however, that transatlantic trade relations had been strained in recent months and that investors were "highly uncertain" about the future.

"We are anxious to see what's going to follow next, but hope for a constructive collaboration with the 45th US president," he said in a statement.

Doubts about free trade

Ullrich Grillo, head of the Federation of German Industry, said the German business community would continue to push for a free trade pact between the US and the European Union, despite mounting opposition in Germany and Trump's flat rejection of such deals.

He warned the new US president against protectionist policies to shield American business from globalized markets. "The United States must continue to push for open markets, because anything else would be poison for the US economy," he said Wednesday. 

Trade and US Elections

Some economists at German banks also fear for the worst following Trump's hardline campaign rhetoric regarding America's trade pacts with Europe and other world regions. Jörg Krämer, chief economist at Commerzbank, described the new US president as a declared opponent of free trade which countries such as Mexico, Canada and China would come to realize quickly.

"Global trade has been stagnating for two years now and won't regain its old dynamics under Trump as president," he said, adding that Germany as an exporting nation would likely be adversely affected once the current consumption-driven upswing slows.

No need to worry?

One of Germany's leading economic institutes, however, played down fears of a massive impact of the outcome of the US election on Germany's economy.

The German Institute of Economic Research said Wednesday that it didn't expect major negative repercussions. "Trump won't be able to fulfill his campaign promises of withdrawing from the World Trade Organization and ending free trade with Europe," said DIW President Marcel Fratzscher.

Even though the US was Germany's biggest export market, he said, German companies were "strong enough, flexible enough and sufficiently diversified" to withstand more isolationist US policies. "In the long-term perspective I expect to see parallels to the Brexit vote in the UK emerging, meaning that little will happen."

The DIW expects the US dollar to strengthen over time as investors seek the US currency in time of uncertainty, thus making Trump's effort to boost the competitiveness of American businesses even harder.

The Munich-based Ifo Institute is less complacent about US-German trade relations, saying that the damage would be "huge" if Trump would ram through his economic policy. At the same time it noted that chances for that to happen were slim in view of likely resistance in the US Congress.

uhe/hg (Reuters, dpa, AFP)