German coalition divided over Chinese bid for Hamburg port terminal
By Andreas Rinke and Sarah Marsh
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s ruling coalition is split over whether to let China’s Cosco take a stake in a Hamburg port terminal, government sources say, even as Beijing urges Berlin not to politicize the bid and the Port Authority warns it could hurt the economy.
Last year, shipping giant Cosco made a bid to take a 35% stake in one of three terminals at Germany’s biggest port in the northern city of Hamburg.
The German government’s response is seen as an indicator of its willingness to toughen its stance on China, its main trading partner, over fears of being too dependent on the increasingly assertive authoritarian country.
Economy Minister Robert Habeck, of the particularly hawkish Greens junior coalition party on China, said in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday that he was leaning against authorizing the deal. which would give China a stake in German critical infrastructure.
The chancellery, led by the senior coalition party the Social Democrats, is more supportive of finding a solution to any concerns, three government sources said. Chancellor Olaf Scholz oversaw a Chinese trade boom while serving as mayor of Hamburg from 2011 to 2018.
The Chancellery did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said she hoped Germany would “view Chinese investment in an objective and rational light, and provide a fair, open and non-discriminatory environment for Chinese businesses, rather than politicizing normal economic and trade cooperation, much less engaging in protectionism in the name of national security”.
Volker Treier, trade expert for the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), said he feared that if there were no clear criteria for rejecting the investment, it could have an impact negative on the attractiveness of Germany for investors in general.
Port of Hamburg marketing director Axel Mattern warned against any veto, saying Chinese investment would be a “huge win for the port rather than a danger, not least because Cosco will soon become the biggest company ever.” shipping in the world”.
China’s rapid expansion has spurred growth in Europe’s biggest economy over the past 10 years, with German automakers currently relying on the market for almost half of their profits.
“A rejection by the Chinese would be a disaster not just for the port but for Germany,” he told Reuters.
Scholz cautioned against any decoupling with China or de-globalization in general, while stressing the need for Germany to diversify its Asian trade and better take strategic concerns into account in its trade relations.
“We need a culture where issues of security and independence are taken into account and we say – it costs but it is necessary,” he said over the weekend.
(Reporting by Andreas Rinke and Sarah Marsh, additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista in Beijing; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)