BERLIN (Reuters) – The coronavirus pandemic has shown Europe is too reliant on other countries for some medical supplies, and European states should work together to further diversify international supply chains, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Reuters.
“Germany, which will take over the rotating EU presidency from July on, feels a special responsibility in the coronavirus crisis to actively shape Europe in a spirit of solidarity,” Altmaier said in remarks cleared for publication on Saturday.
Altmaier, a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, said the single market remained the economic backbone of the European Union and the envy of many other countries, even more so in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The current crisis shows that we have to avoid one-sided dependency and diversify international supply chains to a greater extent,” Altmaier said, adding that Europe had to become less dependent on non-European suppliers of medical precursors as well as medical protection gear such as masks.
“For this we need a European industrial strategy to strengthen the industrial base in Europe, combined with good framework conditions, especially for small and medium-sized companies,” Altmaier told Reuters.
But the minister insisted that such a strategy had to be compatible with the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), adding: “The current crisis does not mean a farewell to globalisation. On the contrary, it underlines the importance of clear international trade rules that everyone must abide by.”
The German government is preparing a change to its foreign trade regulations that would require the government to be informed of purchases by countries outside the European Union of stakes in key healthcare companies.
Altmaier also said the EU should combine the task of supporting the economic recovery from the pandemic with the broader goal of reducing greenhouse gases to slow down global warming.
“After the crisis, Europe has to become a source of ideas for a socially just transformation, a climate-friendly economy and a successful shift towards renewable energies,” he said.
“Technologies that were already a thing of the past before the crisis will be even more so after the crisis,” he added.
“We have to design the European Green Deal as a growth strategy for our economy so that innovations and new clean technologies can help us to find new export markets and secure jobs.”