A valuable perspective on our times

It is not very often that I devote a blog to the words of another, but the following, taken from a recent address, is very appropriate for the current situation here in the U.S.  

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It is not very often that I devote a blog to the words of another, but the following, taken from a recent address, is very appropriate for the current situation here in the U.S.

Dr. Nicola Leibinger-Kammüler is the CEO and Managing Partner of TRUMPF GmbH + Co. KG in Ditzingen, Germany. It has been my pleasure to have met with her on several occasions in the past because TRUMPF is the largest manufacturer of industrial laser and systems. In their financial year ending June 30, 2017, the company achieved sales of around $3.6 billion, an increase of 11% over the previous year. Incoming orders totaled around $3.9 billion, representing 21% growth over last year. After Germany, the U.S. was again the second-largest single market, with about $465 million dollars—ahead of China and South Korea.

The company has four locations in the U.S. with around 1000 employees, where they assemble laser and machine tools and do laser process development for the North American market. In addition, they operate a semiconductor factory in Princeton, NJ, where they develop and manufacture laser diodes that are used at their group companies around the world.

Dr. Leibinger-Kammüller was in the U.S. on September 12, 2017, to commemorate the opening of a new facility the 4.0 Showroom in Chicago. At this event, she took time from her remarks on the facility to comment on U.S./German relations in today's political environment. I have reproduced this section of her remarks for ILS readers.

She remarks: Please allow me to say a few more words about mobility and sharing ideas across international borders, and to briefly touch on another topic.

Despite our truly excellent business situation, we do share some of the concerns about the medium-term development of business relations between Germany and the U.S.

We believe that any political signals that back isolation from other markets, that criticize, in particular, foreign trade surpluses rather than addressing our products' strong competitive edge, are toxic for investments. The same applies to any announcement of protectionist measures. Incidentally, probably one of the most surprising flips was when Secretary Hillary Clinton abandoned TTIP—and even had bipartisan support.

I would therefore prefer to frame the issue positively and say this: our industry in particular—the mechanical engineering industry—needs free markets like people need air to breathe! Three-quarters of the products in this sector are exported—including, and in particular, to the U.S. And we believe that free and fair trade and the exchange of specialists and talented individuals are the only way to improve the standard of living for all—whether in the U.S., in Germany, or elsewhere in the world.

Nationalism, as we can see only too well in Europe these days, leads to higher production costs, lower product quality, and a host of other issues. And consequently also to poorer job prospects.

I say this in full awareness of the great privilege it is to be able to sit before you here as a German businesswoman. Especially in times of occasional political differences between Germany and the United States, it is all the more important to us to signal to our American customers that we consider the U.S. to be one of TRUMPF's most important markets.

But that's not all. Our connection with the United States stems from a very personal company history. I myself was born in Ohio in 1959; back then, my father was working for the Cincinnati Milling Machine Co., which at the time had 6000 employees and was one of the largest machine manufacturers in existence.

That's another reason why our company has always placed particular emphasis on the United States, as it is home to our second-oldest foreign subsidiary, right behind Switzerland. We have been based in Farmington since 1969. TRUMPF there is almost a quintessentially "American company," to use the expression heard so often in recent months in connection with "America first" …

All things considered, though, there is more that unites us than divides us—not least in terms of language. We must separate this from the soundbites we hear during the election campaign—also our own. In two weeks, Germany will elect a new federal government.

She went on: Prior to a panel discussion at the forthcoming G20 summit in March, I had the opportunity to exchange a few words with Ivanka Trump, mainly on questions relating to the German dual vocational training system. And the advancement of women. But also about coincidental similarities between the names "Trump" and "Trumpf"…

And as it is these kinds of personal encounters that we want to build on……[the full press statement continues here]

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