German Traders Seeking Entente Cordiale with US

Article excerpt

Byline: ALLAN HALL

From Allan Hall in Berlin

FEARFUL of a US trade boycott, German businessmen are taking out full-page ads in newspapers to praise the commercial links binding the new and old worlds.

They are worried their bottom lines could suffer due to rising German-US political tension over Iraq. In France, too, there are fears a US boycott could hit exports of wine, cheese and foie gras.

Anton Borner, head of a leading German business group, has a three-word vision of horror in his head: "Don't buy German."

The president of the Federation of German Wholesale and Foreign Trade is one of many business leaders fretting that the political dispute will cause extensive damage to exports, the one area of the German economy that is still advancing. "The excellent, decadeslong relationship with the United States is a fundamental pillar of our prosperity," Borner said in a statement.

There have also been reports the Americans may be considering withdrawing troops from Germany, which would cost the country hundreds of millions of euros and hurt suppliers to the bases.

Trade group Atlantic Bridge - Germany's oldest organisation promoting ties with the US - took out a full-page ad in yesterday's Die Welt to soothe raw feelings.

"Today, with the world being forced to defend itself against terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction, we reaffirm our alliance to the United States," it said.

The worries are being fuelled by the clash between Chancellor Gerhard Schroder and President George Bush. Schroder first began to anger US officials in the summer, when he pledged to keep his forces out of a war with Iraq. Last month, he said Germany would not vote for a resolution in the UN Security Council authorising such an attack.

As Borner and other trade group leaders have seen tensions spread, the German economy has slipped deeper into crisis. …