Shortly before Christmas, German Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel received practical training on the potential impact of a transatlantic free trade deal between Europe and the United States while visiting an Opel factory in Germany.
Engineers at the General Motors subsidiary slapped red arrows on everything that must be changed on a compact car to export it to the United States: the front of the vehicle, the rear, the roof, the rear lights, the windshield wipers and much more. The message was clear: Common U.S.-E.U. standards would be good for Germany’s auto industry and let it produce more cars at more affordable prices.
Less than two months later, the German automobile industry is raising pressure on its own government to back the deal, which faces an uphill battle in Germany where a coalition of data privacy advocates and domestic industry protectionists have organized opponents.
On Wednesday, the automotive industry will pull out the stops to lobby for the pact, which advocates claim would lead to economic growth and the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic, especially in Germany, Europe’s largest economy.
An unprecedented joint press conference in Berlin will bring together the A-list of German automotive executives: Chief executives Dieter Zetsche of Daimler, Martin Winterkorn of Volkswagen, Norbert Reithofer of BMW, Rupert Stadler of Audi, Matthias Müller of Porsche, Bernhard Mattes of Ford Germany, Volkmar Denner of Bosch and Arndt Kirchhoff of Kirchoff Automotive, a parts maker.
The managers hope to brake growing resistance in Germany to the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
The automobile executives have never delivered such a visible, collective message before.
The top managers had planned a low-key meeting in Berlin of the German industry’s lobby association, VDA. But growing opposition to TTIP has forced them to go public, extolling the benefits of a free trade zone of 800 million in the European Union and United States.