October 2017

As the German American Chamber of Commerce celebrates 70 years of facilitating German-US trade, flow talks to CEO Dietmar Rieg about his passion for dual business education and sharing expertise

Foreign trade between Germany and the United States (US) has consistently demonstrated how much the German passion for quality manufacturing is appreciated by Americans.

According to the US Census, by the end of 2016, the US had imported US$114bn of goods from Germany but only exported US$49bn. And by the end of July 2017, the balance was pretty similar – US$66bn of German goods exported to the US, but only US$30bn going in the other direction.

It is no surprise therefore, that the German American Chamber of Commerce, that celebrated 70th birthday in June 2017 has grown from its humble beginnings of 15 member companies to an institution that has grown into a significant facilitator of US-German trade found in 12 US cities, supported by 130 dedicated employees and a network of around 2,500 member companies.

One of those dedicated employees is President and CEO Dietmar Rieg, who has been at the helm for four years having had 20 years in finance before that, including a stint as General Manager at Bayerishe Landesbank based in Munich. Flow caught up with him one sunny afternoon – our interview took place in his offices where the view out of the window was the Deutsche Bank US offices at 60 Wall Street.

Two-way street

“Our goal continues to be an impartial facilitator of economic and commercial relationships between the US and Germany in both directions,” says Rieg. He points out that German companies have invested around US$314bn in the US, supporting 672,000 jobs and, compared with other major foreign employers, German companies pay the highest wages at an average of more than US$89,000 per year. In addition, almost half of these jobs are in the industrial and manufacturing sector.

Rieg is particularly proud of the German vocational training system and the GACC has promoted dual education activities for more than 1,000 young students in the US, supplementing many of the direct programmes in place by GACC member companies. “A lot of colleges are picking up on this and involving the GACC in their curricula and certification,” he says. Not only does the dual education programme involve bringing German manufacturing expertise into the US, but it goes the other way While German companies spent US$7.1bn in R&D employing 26,400 people including scientists around university and start-up centres in the North-East US and California, US companies and tech giants have been busy increasing their presence in Germany.  The German Senat der Wirtschaft (Senate of the Economy) hosted a business delegation visit to Germany in May 2017 for US companies to meet with world market leaders such as the CEO of Porsche, Recaro Aircraft Seating and connecting materials giant the Würth Group.

Energy and trade policy

As Germany seeks to reduce its dependency on fossil fuel imports – and thus its exposure to price and supply risks – the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) is pursuing international energy policy cooperation to build enduring energy relationships with partner countries. The GACC runs a number of energy dialogue programmes that discuss energy policy issues and the opportunities associated with the expansion of renewable energy sources. But on the general politics of trade, the GACC has to be careful, says Rieg, to remain politically neutral, although the change of administration at the White House can hardly be ignored. A survey of GACC members published earlier in 2017 commented that “regardless of the uncertainty on the global and US economies unleashed by Donald Trump’s victory, a significant number of German subsidiaries have a positive outlook on the potential economic impacts of his presidency. However, German firms depend on free trade and open borders and they are hopeful that the new administration prioritises these issues.” It will be interesting to see how members feel 12 month on when they are polled again in October 2017.

What about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), proposed between the EU and the US with the aim of promoting trade and multilateral economic growth? “It is a well negotiated agreement,” says Rieg diplomatically. Progress on its current status can be found on the USTR website here, but while all the negotiations continue to rumble on, the GACC continues to make its own contribution to promoting trade between Germany and the US.

Support from Deutsche Bank

The partnership between Deutsche Bank and the GACC is an intuitive one, and the two organisations have the benefit of being across the street from each other in New York. Hans Ackermann, Head of Global Subsidiary Coverage Americas comments, “Deutsche Bank supports the GACC by making its experts available to GACC members in search of financing and trade opportunities.” The bank also sponsored the body’s annual meeting held on 5 May 2017 in New York. “We appreciate collaborating with Deutsche Bank and the support you provide us”, says Rieg – the bank is also one of the 900 members. In 70 years this organisation has brought together a corporate community ranging from start-ups with little more than ideas as assets to large Fortune 500 companies and got them all talking trade. Ausgezeichnet, as they say in Germany….

Further information about the German American Chamber of Commerce (GACC) can be found on their website at www.gaccny.com/en/

Dietmar Rieg

President & CEO, German American Commerce of New York

Dietmar Rieg

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