Event Report: 16th Transatlantic Business Conference in Frankfurt am Main

Impacts of the German "Zeitenwende" and the U.S. Midterm Elections on the Transatlantic Business Community
Photo Copyright: Sandra Hauer

On November 17, 2022, AmCham Germany hosted its 16th Transatlantic Business Conference at the Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof in Frankfurt am Main. This year’s annual Transatlantic Business Conference focused on the recent German “Zeitenwende” and the U.S. Midterm Elections and the impacts on the transatlantic business community. At the conference, politicians, business leaders among AmCham Germany member companies, and other stakeholders came together to discuss the significance and developments for the transatlantic partnership and cooperation. Stressed throughout the duration of the conference, it was clear that further transatlantic cooperation is desired and needed, particularly in trade, energy security and greentech, the digital economy, as well as defense, healthcare, and life sciences. Transatlantic sovereignty that transcends borders is required to achieve common standards and rules on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as on a global scale. The day was comprised of a range of formats, such as panel discussions, keynote speeches, breakout sessions, and high-level exchanges between AmCham Germany President Simone Menne and important political actors from both sides of the Atlantic.

Transatlantic Economic Relations: The Zeitenwende and U.S. Midterm Elections

The 16th Transatlantic Business Conference kicked off in the morning with a welcome from the moderator for the day, Sumi Somaskanda, Journalist with Deutsche Welle. Underscoring the focus for the conference of looking forward on the transatlantic partnership in light of current events and the geopolitical landscape, the first section of the day opened with a setting-the-scene session titled “The Transatlantic Economic Outlook & the German "Zeitenwende": High-Level Perspectives from Germany and the U.S.” Introductory remarks were given by AmCham Germany President Simone Menne, noting the manifold challenges that affect the transatlantic business community, including rising inflation, changes in the international system and power structures, and the effects of the Russian war in Ukraine on the transatlantic economy. The floor was then opened to the conference’s first two keynote speakers. Dr. Franziska Brantner, Parliamentary State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, and Marisa Lago, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce, both gave inspirational and insightful keynote speeches, stressing the importance of German-American cooperation to advance the bilateral trade relationship, accelerate the green transition and invest in green technologies, and ensure the safe, secure transfer and handling of transatlantic data in this digital age. This then continued into a fireside chat between Simone Menne, Under Secretary Marisa Lago, and Parliamentary State Secretary Franziska Brantner, moderated by Sumi Somaskanda, on how to further foster transatlantic trade and overcome existing barriers and other obstacles. Some of the questions posed were what the term Zeitenwende means in terms of the transatlantic relationship, how Germany and the U.S. can intensify transatlantic trade, and what shape should trade take with China, in relation to U.S.-German economic relations. Throughout the dialogue, it was clear the transatlantic cooperation stands as a vital component in both countries’ economic relations, especially following Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s declaration of the Zeitenwende in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine and following the results of the U.S. Midterm Elections, which will result in a new makeup of the U.S. Congress for the years to come.

What comes next? The U.S. Midterm Elections and Impacts on Transatlantic Cooperation post 2022

Following the insightful conversation earlier in the morning, the conference continued with its next discussion focusing primarily on the results of the U.S. Midterm Elections and how that may impact the transatlantic business community. How may the new Congress impact transatlantic business? How will this look moving into 2023? In a fireside chat, former U.S. Congressman Jack Kingston (R), currently Principal at Squire Patton Boggs, provided his insights and experiential knowledge on the topic and the potential outlook and impacts on the U.S.-German geopolitical relationship. He stressed that the current Congress and the Congress to come are committed to continuous and strong transatlantic cooperation, underscoring it as a vital pillar as well for the transatlantic business community. Following Kingston’s fireside chat, an impulse on the topic was given by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Siegfried Russwurm, Chairman of the Transatlantic Business Initiative of the Federation of German Industries e. V. (BDI), specifically on the possible impacts that the U.S. Midterm Elections may have on the German business community itself. Stressed here was also the importance that transatlantic partners must continue to work diligently on economic relations on both sides of the Atlantic. Cooperation instead of confrontation is a crucial pillar in the development and continuous fostering of the transatlantic relationship. The topic was then rounded out with a panel discussion between Dr. Sabine Gilliam, Country President at Pfizer Germany, Sean Stein, Senior Advisor at Covington & Burling LLP & Chairman at The American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, Armand Zorn, Member of the Bundestag with the Social Democratic Party (SPD), and Prof. Dr.-Ing. Siegfried Russwurm, Chairman of the Transatlantic Business Initiative. The panel discussed the potential for increased transatlantic cooperation especially with eyes on China, climate protection and the climate crisis, and uniform, compatible standard setting.

Empowering Female Voices in the Transatlantic Business Community

AmCham Germany and the U.S. Department of Commerce also had the opportunity to bring together female leaders in the transatlantic business and trade community for an exclusive female leaders luncheon with Under Secretary Marisa Lago. Lago highlighted the EmpowerHer Initiative at the luncheon, a partnership between the U.S. Department of Commerce and the AmChams in Europe (ACE) network, dedicated to advancing women’s economic empowerment in the workplace and women-led entrepreneurship. AmCham Germany President Simone Menne also brought attention to AmCham Germany’s Female Founders Award and Female Leaders Platform, further initiatives to foster gender equality and women’s empowerment. The luncheon was a platform for topline, high-level messages and fruitful discussions between female leaders from AmCham Germany’s diverse membership and leadership from the U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Mission to Germany, particularly regarding diversity, equity and inclusion priorities, actionable steps that companies can take to advance women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship, and the commitment to deepening U.S.-German commercial ties on many issues in 2023 and beyond.

Breakout Sessions: From Circular Economy to Combatting Climate Change

Following lunch, participants in the Transatlantic Business Conference entered into separate breakout sessions, with one hosted by Deloitte and the other hosted by Procter & Gamble. The topic of the breakout session with Deloitte was “Circular Economy” and its potential as a solution for disrupted supply chains and an area for further transatlantic cooperation, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. In the other breakout session hosted by Procter & Gamble in cooperation with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), participants discussed the global issue of climate change and how we can best adjust our behaviors and actions to help combat it. It was stressed that private and public companies, organizations, and nonprofits can and should work together to find areas of collaboration in their efforts in combatting climate change, such as in partnerships and marketing campaigns. Overall, both breakout sessions brought members of the transatlantic business community together to brainstorm on ways we can continue to work together on both sides of the Atlantic and how business can be an active part in that.

A warm thank you to our co-organizer Deloitte and platinum sponsor Proctor & Gamble, as well as to the World Wildlife Fund in putting together such informative and insightful breakout sessions!

Sustainable Finance & EU Taxonomy: Opportunities and Challenges for the Transatlantic Business Community

The conference then continued on with a panel discussion on Sustainable Finance and European Union Taxonomy. Moderated by Amy Curlee, Senior Manager North America at Frankfurt Rhein Main GmbH, she was joined on stage by Michael Kotzbauer, Member of the Board of Managing Directors at Commerzbank, Melanie Kreis, CFO and Member of the Board at the Deutsche Post DHL Group and Co-Chair of the Transatlantic Business Initiative, Wiebke Merbeth, Partner at Deloitte & Member of the Sustainable Finance Advisory Committee of the German Federal Government, Stefan Schnell, Senior Vice President, Group Reporting & Performance Management at BASF, and Judith Wiese, Chief People and Sustainability Officer (CPSO), Member of the Board, and Labor Director at Siemens AG. The discussion focused around the area of how sustainable finance can best be used to look to the future in business models and how that works hand in hand with EU Taxonomy and social governance. This presents numerous opportunities for the transatlantic business community, but also challenges, especially in light of the new geo-economic and security realities of 2022 and beyond.

The Transatlantic Partnership beyond 2022: Dispatches from Berlin & Washington

To round out a full day of lively interchange, members of the transatlantic business community came together once more for our final discussion of the day. Moderated again by Sumi Somaskanda, Axel Dittmann, Deputy Chief of Mission at German Embassy in the U.S. and Woodward Clark Price, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy Berlin, joined us virtually to examine, together with AmCham Germany President Simone Menne, the transatlantic partnership moving out of 2022 and looking to the future. This included how the war in Ukraine has shifted priorities for actors on both sides of the Atlantic, how trade negotiations may look between the U.S. and Germany in the years to come, proactive steps the U.S. and Germany can take to accelerate action on climate change, and the biggest priorities for the transatlantic community in the coming months and years. Reiterated again and emphasized was how crucial transatlantic cooperation is for our collaborative efforts in defending our shared democratic values and business interests and serves to show that a strong transatlantic partnership is desired and needed when tackling issues, especially those that transcend borders.

A warm thank you to our event supporters and partners, without whom our conference would not have been possible: Deloitte, Commerzbank, Covington & Burling LLP, Siemens AG, Pfizer, Transatlantic Business Initiative, BASF, Frankfurt Rhein Main GmbH, Hessen Trade & Invest, Proctor & Gamble, Delta Airlines, KION Group, Mayer Brown, Coca Cola, Lilly, SAP, and SAS.

For more detailed information please contact:

Thomas Henneberg

Manager, Head of Membership Engagement & Events