On December 3, 2021, AmCham Germany hosted its 15th Transatlantic Business Conference at the AXICA Congress & Convention Center, at the heart of Pariser Platz in Berlin. Under the title Shaping the Future of Transatlantic Economic Relations after the German General Elections, important stakeholders of politics, business representatives, and AmCham Germany members met in a small round to provide their perspectives and insights. The conference comprised a range of formats for the day, such as panel discussions, viewpoints from the industry, breakout sessions and exchanges between AmCham Germany President, Simone Menne, with high level political actors.
Transatlantic partnership: a central pillar for international action
To kick-off the conference, the moderator of the day, Chelsea Spieker, posed a central question: What does transatlantic mean? An answer that resounded was that it means to be bound together by common values, individual freedoms and transatlantic business ties. This sentiment was also echoed by Clark Price, Chargé d’Affaires a.i. at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, who gave the welcoming remarks. He assured the motivation and prioritization of the current administration towards its transatlantic partners and making progress together. Areas such as health, energy transition, innovation, and market-oriented goals in the 21st century will be top priority, mirrored in forums as the most-recently established Transatlantic Trade Council (TTC). He concluded with the exciting times ahead for Germany, such as the incoming government and the G7 presidency in 2022.
In his keynote speech, Dr. Jörg Kukies, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Finance in Germany, outlined Germany’s top matters for the near future. This includes heading out of the pandemic in the short term and digital and green transformation of the economy, emphasizing the digitalization and climate change efforts in the long term. These matters are also mirrored in the EU’s agenda with the necessity to strengthen competitiveness of the EU bloc. Such strategies could entail joint cooperation on supply chain management and the essential positioning towards China. Kukies further echoed the spirit of optimism between the transatlantic partners, by calling the relationship central to international action in the coalition agreement of the incoming government, with great potential for Germany’s G7 presidency and the TTC as a forum for exchange and development of a transatlantic agenda.
Viewpoints from the Industry: Entrepreneurship & Digital Health as Topics for the Next German Industry
For this conference, AmCham Germany included representatives of its initiatives such as the NextGen Program and the Female Founders Award to give their insights to different aspects of the industry. Hannah Helmke is the recipient of AmCham Germany’s 2021 Female Founders Award and Dominick Kennerson is member of the Steering Committee of AmCham Germany NextGen Program.
As CEO of right. based on science, Hannah Helmke emphasized the vast room for improvement for entrepreneurial culture within Germany, in comparison to her experience in the U.S. She outlined the potential of entrepreneurs to tackle global challenges due to their innovative spirit. She called for larger companies to engage on an eye-level with entrepreneurs to also ensure that these innovative ideas are not only appreciated but also used to foster transformation within Germany.
As a main topic on the transatlantic agenda, Dominick Kennerson, Global Head G4A Digital Health at Bayer AG, explained the link between digitalization and healthcare – referring to it as the ‘‘backbone of the future of healthcare.’’ In this vein, he explained the transatlantic challenges and untapped potential of A.I. in healthcare as well as the necessity of Germany in refining its position in the digital health ecosystem.
Priorities for the New German Administration and Potential for Transatlantic Economic Cooperation with the U.S.
The main question of the first panel discussion centered on the priorities of the new German government to ensure transatlantic economic cooperation. Panelists included Metin Hakverdi, Member of the Bundestag, Chairman of the USA/North America Working Group within the SPD Parliamentary Group, Gordon Riske, CEO, KION Group AG, Aylin Tüzel, Country Manager, Pfizer Germany, and Sandra Weeser, Member of the German Bundestag, Free Democratic Party. Hakverdi explained that German economic and global foreign policy is still thought through the EU lens and will continue having this strong emphasis. As business representative, Riske recognized the potential to lead towards building transatlantic bridges with the U.S. As the largest economy within Europe, Germany could fortify this process with the European bloc. The challenges and goals within Germany were outlined by Weeser, who stated that as top priority Germany must be modernized as a state, as means to remain innovative and be a reliable location for investments. This means reducing bureaucracy, expanding digital infrastructure and investing on skilled workforce. Tüzel echoed this sentiment by providing a first-hand example of data management in the healthcare sector.
Breakout Sessions: From Future Business Models in a Post-Covid-19 World to Troubled Supply Chains
In the breakout session organized by 3M, Dirk Lange, Managing Director Central European Region, 3M Deutschland GmbH, and Bernhard Fauser, Managing Director, HP Central Europe, explained the trend of the share economy and digital services and how the hybrid world that came into fruition through the Covid-19 pandemic is most likely here to stay. To adapt the workforce, three components are essential: the safety of employees, offering trainings for employees (i.e. digital trainings) and bonding between leaders and employees (i.e. in the form of a weekly Q&A).
To conclude, Lange emphasized that at the end of the day, the way companies do things is important, not where they do it. As an outlook they presented more flexibility for employees, either fully remote work model or models of 3-4 days of presence and called for a diversity in teams.
In the breakout session organized by Deloitte, representatives Dr. Nikolaus Helbig, Partner, and Dr. Jürgen Sandau, Partner, provided insights to the complexity of supply chain management and how to make supply chains more resilient. They emphasized the aspect of trust and predictability in this process, not only in social terms but also in a legal and political framework. They delved into the three options available when dealing with supply chain disruption: doing nothing, re-localizing or collaboration. Of the three, they explained why collaboration is the best option: this strategy enables speed, is cost-efficient and enables new business models.
A warm thank you to 3M and Deloitte for their presentations on such vital topics for business operations and organizing these breakout sessions.
Global Trends and Economic Challenges: Navigating Transatlantic Business in a Post-Covid-19 World
The second transatlantic panel was comprised by speakers Jeff Bullwinkel, Director of Corporate, External & Legal Affairs, Microsoft Europe, Dr. Christian Forwick, Deputy Director-General for External Economic Relations, Trade Policy, America, German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, Nathan Houser, Chief Operating Officer, Deloitte Consulting Central Europe
Molly Montgomery, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State, and Omid Nouripour, Member of the German Bundestag, Alliance ‘90/The Greens, Spokesman on Foreign Affairs.
Houser mentioned two main challenges for transatlantic business: supply chain distortions and the retention and attraction of talent. Echoed by many in the conference, he mentioned the reliability on technology for every sector and how this will fundamentally change and transform business. With the example of transatlantic data flows he called for the cooperation in rule-making in tech. Other speakers of the panel, such as Bullwinkel, explained that the U.S. and Europe are like minded in fundamental values when it comes to fair business practices but also underlined the current lack of political agreement. Montgomery echoed the joint urgency to find a solution.
Forwick sketched the focus on regulatory trade reform and highlighted the importance of the TTC in regard to new technologies and common concerns such as climate change. On the issue of China, Nouripour explained that decoupling of China is not an option and cooperation with large players such as China, in aspects such as climate policy, is essential. The urgent need for a common EU/U.S. position on China was reiterated.
Exchanges with Myron Brilliant and Ambassador Emily Haber to conclude the conference
To conclude the conference, Simone Menne had an exchange with Myron Brilliant, Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Emily Haber, German Ambassador to the U.S.
In the first exchange, Myron Brilliant provided insights to the atmosphere in D.C. and the current concerns. The year 2022 will be packed with a domestic agenda in light of the midterm elections and possibly the inflation as an effect of the pandemic and the 1.75 trillion USD package. Brilliant expressed the positive outlook for the transatlantic partnership. In this vein, he called for joint coordination between the U.S. and Europe in technology and sustainability issues, WTO reform, supply chain management, and supported the idea of a Digital Transatlantic Economic Zone.
Ambassador Emily Haber sketched the positive developments between Germany and the U.S. of the last year as the Biden Administration approaches its first-year mark in January with a return to international fora, and dialogue in many areas. In terms of the expectations from the U.S., it is expected for there to be change, but much continuity will follow as well. She expressed that the international landscape is shifting and therefore ‘‘we will have to adapt, and we will have to do so jointly.’’
A warm thank you to our event supporters and partners, without whom our conference would not have been possible: Deloitte, WirtschaftsWoche, Pfizer, Microsoft, Transatlantic Business Initiative, DZ Bank AG, 3M, KION Group, SAS Institute, Delta Air Lines, Frankfurt Rhein Main GmbH, Lilly Deutschland, Iowa Economic Development, NRW. Global Business, Pyramid Computer GmbH, SAP.