“Machinery companies need open markets”
Open markets and free trade without barriers are of decisive importance for mechanical and plant engineering companies. Globally active medium-sized companies in particular, including the frequently quoted "hidden champions", are dependent on functioning free trade. Only in this way can they assume a strong position in international competition and make an important contribution to jobs and prosperity in their region. During a tour of the plant, the Hamburg-based coating equipment manufacturer KROENERT GmbH & Co KG and the VDMA discussed these and other topics together with Dr Matthias Bartke, member of the Bundestag.
"We manufacture our systems in Hamburg and have an export quota of over 60%. The freedom of international trade in goods and services is therefore vital for our company and our location here. However, sending technicians abroad is becoming more complicated and labour-intensive," said Markus Waterkamp, managing director of KROENERT.
"It is impressive what KROENERT does worldwide and thus offers hundreds of employees highly qualified work in Altona. I was surprised to learn how many things that determine our everyday life are shaped by a coating system from KROENERT. The fact that different, complicated reporting regulations apply to a one-week secondment of employees in every EU member state must not be allowed in a community of states such as the European Union. A harmonisation and coordination of reporting regulations within the EU seems urgently necessary to me," said Dr Bartke, member of the Bundestag from Altona.
"We export our systems worldwide. This is associated with versatile requirements and complex technical regulations that do not always make exporting easy. For example, we have to equip machines for the US market with specially certified components. That makes these machines more expensive. Against this background, free trade agreements are very important because they reduce so-called non-tariff barriers to trade and thus make us more competitive," explained Dr Tarik Vardag, also managing director of KROENERT.
Ulrich Ackermann, head of VDMA Foreign Trade, drew the picture somewhat further and underlined the importance of free trade for the entire mechanical and plant engineering industry: "In 2017, mechanical engineering from Germany had a turnover of around €226bn, with an export ratio of over 78%. More than 600 000 jobs are directly dependent on exports. This underlines the great importance of foreign trade for small and medium-sized industrial enterprises."
In addition, around 35% of exports are now going to countries with high import barriers. "Free trade therefore needs clear advocacy in German politics, because it is ultimately about jobs and prosperity in our country. Protectionism and foreclosure, on the other hand, will turn all market participants at home and abroad into losers," stressed Ackermann.