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Mrs. Merkel steps up, hits bullseye

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Export, Germany, Investing in the UK, Sports & Leisure

I’ve witnessed two very different events in recent months on the stage in the main auditorium at the Maritim Hotel in Duesseldorf.

In July it was Phil 'The Power' Taylor, the multiple darts world champion.  This week it was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, arguably the most powerful woman in Europe.

Both gave powerful, inspiring performances, both earned rapturous applause from a predominantly male audience and both, in their own way, promoted the UK presence in Europe.

‘The Power’ was in Dusseldorf for the European Darts Championships and he was there to win his fourth consecutive European title. The reason Chancellor Merkel was there was less obvious but (and this is the reason I am writing this, if you were wondering) shows the passion the Germans have for business and how very seriously they take it all.

As we look for a good slide into the new near (as the Germans would say), our diaries fill with invitations to 'Neujahresempfang'. The New Year reception invitations come from all manner of organisations. This one, which I was delighted to accept, was hosted by the IHK Duesseldorf, the German equivalent off a Chamber of Commerce.

The attendance was nothing short of impressive – both the number and seniority of attendees from the world of business and, of course, their keynote speaker.

To give this some perspective, this was the equivalent of David Cameron turning up at the Reading Chamber of Commerce’s Christmas party to deliver a speech to a few hundred business leaders, diplomats and mayors – including board members and current and former CEOs of a handful of FTSE 100 companies.

The Germans put great importance on the promotion and support for business; Chancellor Merkel's speech (just shy of an hour) at this event was further evidence of that.

And we, on the UK side, were delighted that her speech on Europe reminded the assembled business community that the UK is still an important force in the European project and should continue to be treated as such. She also talked about the continued importance of Europe and how vital we are for growth in each other economies (she could have mentioned here that UK exports to Germanyalone are double that to the BRIC countries combined - although she didn't.  She could also have mentioned that German investments in the UK are worth more than €100bn - although she didn't).

Chancellor Merkel had lunchtime meetings with President Sarkozy in Berlin and then popped a few hundred miles across Germany to show her support for the business community. Impressive as her speech was, this was as much about the medium being the message - just her presence there showed the political importance attached to business in this part of Germany.

It was a message that truly hit the bullseye.


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