“German angst” is once again doing the rounds in the German media. The use of chlorine dioxide for water sanitation in the American poultry industry has become a symbol for the disputes over international free trade and an agreement between the European Union and the United States.
Almost every day the dangers are published in vivid color: A secret agreement, hatched in the dark back rooms of Brussels, would supposedly negate the high environmental and social standards in Europe and especially Germany. Unfortunately, rational arguments are falling on deaf ears in the public debate.
Beyond all myths and prejudices, the reciprocal reduction of tariffs and other trade inhibitors lies at the heart of the negotiations. Because that is what small and medium-sized businesses suffer from the most, particularly in Germany.
The German textile and fashion industry, typified by medium-sized businesses and driven by exports, generates annual revenues of €28 billion (about $37 billion). Germany is world market leader with its highly innovative technical textiles used for medical, construction, air treatment and transport technology. With the United States as the third largest export market, the German textile industry achieved a foreign trade surplus of €200 billion (about $267 billion) in 2013.
Customs clearance and compliance with all regulations already increase the prices for German textile products in the United States by up to 20 percent without taking regular tariff rates into account.
Some of the regulations are odd: If a men’s coat in anorak-style is made primarily of cotton, the customs charge is 9.4 percent. But predominantly synthetic fibers push the rate up to 27 percent. This is highly complicated and almost impossible for small and medium-sized manufacturers to track.