Head of AGRAVIS Managing Board: TTIP requires "Naturalness of trade"
Corporate action and optimism have been characterizing its effects for decades, which is why Dr. Clemens Grosse Frie, Chairman of AGRAVIS Raiffeisen AG, also sees the current discussions about the TTIP free-trade agreement half-laughing and half-crying. Both because of the same question: "Are we missing an opportunity?".
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The subject is extremely important for Grosse Frie, because this will also decide the future economic future capability of Germany and of Europe, according to the AGRAVIS Group leader, who received the City of Münster Economic Prize on 25 June. The 63-year old has been managing the agricultural trade and service company since it was founded in 2004. AGRAVIS Raiffeisen AG mainly carries out its corporate activities at around 400 separate locations in Germany, although the international network is becoming increasingly important. In the interview, Grosse Frie discusses the planned TTIP free trade agreement with the USA.
What three things do you spontaneously think of with regard to TTIP?
Dr. Clemens Grosse Frie: Opportunities, "Made in Germany" and philosophy.
What you mean by Philosophy?
Grosse Frie: The discussion in Germany, as far as I can see, is characterized by an amount of excitement. Policy is created with symbolic subjects such as the American chlorine-washed chicken. Doubters exploit these opportunities in order to underline their fundamental skepsis. As a result, the mistrust of the TTIP gains considerable support in the public perception. Despite the fact that nobody precisely knows that will even be in this treaty. This uncertainty is a good breeding ground, which the rejction can be based. This shows that it would presumably be better to hold a more transparent discussion about TIPP.
Does this mean you think there are no risks with this treaty?
Grosse Frie: Of course there are. These risks have to be clearly explained in the current negotiations and mitigated as much as possible – ideally between the negotiators, who meet face to face and are aiming for a fair compromise. These risks are one thing, but this Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership offers opportunities to a far larger extent.
What are you thinking of specifically?
Grosse Frie: The USA is one of the largest economic powers in the world. This will open new sales markets for the German economy, also for German agriculture. With regard to cars and other goods, the Americans already know exactly what excellent products they are getting with the stamp "Made in Germany". And soon they will also be impressed by the excellent quality of the agricultural products from "good old Germany" – by products that are sustainble and integrated. In Europe, and above all in Germany, we have an ideal climate for agriculture, we have lots of expertise in our agricultural and food industry, we work environmentally compatibly, with reason, and with far-reaching, high standards. Exporting the products created in this way is therefore an opportunity. I am convinced of this. This quality will also be benefit other countries. The export of pork from the EU to the USA, to give an example, will reach the same dimension as export to Hong Kong. A lot of hot air is generated as well. On the other hand, the USA wants to sell us more soya. We need this raw material for our feed production , to product meat that is a finished export item. Agriculture and agricultural trade has not been a local, cottage industry for a long time. It is a global business. And a growing export would also be an expression of the competitiveness of the German economy.
What basic condition do you link with TTIP?
Grosse Frie: It is important that equal opportunities in respect of production and marketing are safeguarded between the trading partners. If this is safeguarded, this treaty will take us a step closer to the "naturalness of trade" without unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles, for example with the approval of animal medicines. Politics should stick to setting the rails, between which trade can move. Everything else is best left with the people responsible in companies.