The two shiny pipe welding tractors that fill most of the space
in Eginhard Vietz's production hall here might be German industry's
first casualties of the Iraq war.
Shipment of the two massive machines, approved under the United
Nations oil-for-food program in 2002, was called off four weeks
before the first rockets began falling on Baghdad.
Now, Mr. Vietz is stuck with almost $600,000 worth of expensive
equipment that was the first part of a $5 million order placed by
Iraq's now-defunct South Oil Company.
"What can I do?" Mr. Vietz wonders. "I can't send them anywhere!"
In Europe's boardrooms - from Vietz's modest operation to France
and Germany's powerful business associations - the economic future
of postwar Iraq and its estimated $30 billion reconstruction needs
have become topic A.
Fears among French and German companies that the antiwar stance
taken by Prime Minister Jacques Chirac and Chancellor Gerhard
Schroder would cost them business have come true - at least in the
first round of contracts awarded by USAID.
All of the initial money the government development agency will
give out in primary contracts for immediate postwar reconstruction
has gone or will go to US companies. Up to now, only two foreign
firms - both of them British - have been brought on, as
Siemens' telecommunications know-how or Hochtief's construction
cranes have not been in demand. Nor will they be, says Vietz.
German corporate jitters
"Because of the chancellor's political slip-up, German business
has no chance," says Vietz, echoing the concerns of other German
Chancellor Gerhard Schroder's tough antiwar position, which he
made clear as a promise to voters while battling for reelection in
September, rankled the Bush administration. While his public stood
behind him, Germany's business leaders implored Schroder to soften
"I was also against the war," says Vietz. "But I would have said
The postwar business front is already quite different in European
countries that supported the US-led invasion. Companies in Britain
and Denmark have already had contact with US officials interested in
US diplomats in Denmark, which has offered 360 soldiers to help
maintain stability in postwar Iraq, have already sent word through
the defense minister that they would like to talk with Danish
shipping company A.P. Moller/Maersk Group regarding its expertise in
the region, the company says.
London-based Crown Agents has been providing logistical support
to the USAID mission in Kuwait ever since the Washington-based
International Resources Group received a $7.1 million contract in
Bechtel announced last week that the British firm Olive Security
and the British part of Florida-based ArmorHoldings will provide
security services and survey unexploded ordnance in Iraq.
A British business invasion
The British expect more contracts to follow soon. …