Munich Conference

In Munich, Business Leaders Wary

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Political uncertainty stemming from the Trump administration’s mixed messages on Europe could affect the continent’s economic climate.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on German car imports from Mexico, has called NATO obsolete and his trade adviser, Peter Navarro, accused Germany of manipulating the euro.
    • Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence sought to reassure U.S. allies in Europe that the Washington remains committed to the trans-Atlantic Alliance.
    • German business executives are skeptical that Mr. Pence’s comments represent the views of Mr. Trump.
  • Audio

    Audio

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Lavrov MSC Reuters
The Russian foreign minister attacked NATO in Munich. German businesses are not so sure Trump will defend it either. Source: Reuters

Foreign and security policy aren’t normally thought of as part of a corporate executive’s job portfolio, but the Munich Security Conference was packed with German business leaders seeking answers about the uncertain future of trans-Atlantic relations.

Siemens Chief Executive Joe Kaeser impatiently waited for a meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel in the lobby of the famed Hotel Bayerischer Hof.

Next door in a large conference room, Nikolaus von Bomhard of the reinsurer Munich Re, Aldo Belloni of the industrial gas producer Linde, Franz Fehrenbach of Bosch and Paul Achleitner of Deutsche Bank listened intently to the analysis of security experts.

From trade to the NATO alliance, U.S. President Donald Trump’s iconoclastic rhetoric has unsettled executive boardrooms across Europe. And with anti-establishment populist movements polling strongly in upcoming elections in Holland, France and to a lesser degree in Germany, more upheaval could be on the way.

“The big risk at the moment is the political uncertainty that keeps increasing, the economy also feels it,” Charles-Edouard Bouee, chief executive of the global consulting firm Roland Berger, told Handelsblatt.

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