Struggle for Natural Resources (II)

BERLIN |

BERLIN (Own report) - Berlin is preparing itself for the struggle for the earth's mineral resources with its own "natural resources strategy." The document, adopted last Wednesday by the German cabinet, envisions numerous measures to insure the future supply of the necessary raw materials for the German hi-tech industry. Among these is the establishment of so-called raw material partnerships - using funds from the German "development policies", Berlin seeks to obligate important nations of Africa, Asia and Latin America, rich in raw materials, to supply Germany. The Federal Agency for Geological Studies and Natural Resources (BGR) screened and established lists of countries - among them the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, Indonesia and Brazil - which come into consideration as candidates for becoming Germany's "raw materials partners", because of their natural resources, needed for German industry. The Federation of German Industries (BDI) has announced its third "Natural Resources Congress" for tomorrow, Oct. 26, where state secretaries of the participating German ministries will be discussing Berlin's plans with leading officials of German companies and international organizations. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is supposed to also be lending its assistance.

Insure Access

German businesses, particularly the Federation of German Industries (BDI), have been pushing for years for decisive political action to insure preferential access to raw materials around the world.[1] This is not only envisaging energy resources but includes non-energy mineral deposits, such as those needed particularly by German hi-tech companies. "A growing shortage would endanger our entire industrial foundation", predicted an article published last week in the press by the Director or the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Volker Perthes and the Parliamentary State Secretary in the German Ministry of the Environment, Katherina Reiche.[2] That text was published on the occasion of the German cabinet's adoption of its "Natural Resources Strategy" and, like the strategy, proposes a variety of measures to help insure access to the deposits necessary for the industry. Efforts to reduce consumption of resources, as well as initiatives to recycle used raw materials, are playing a role, which is why the Ministry of the Environment is involved.

New Natural Resources Strategy

Access to new resources throughout the world, plays a decisive role in the German government's natural resources strategy, therefore classical instruments for promoting German foreign trade should be more extensively used than in the past - instruments such as networks of foreign chambers of commerce and government guarantees for foreign investments. The EU is to be implicated to a larger extent to "enhance the access to natural resources."[3] Already last May, the German Federal Agency for Geological Studies and Natural Resources (BGR), with headquarters in Hannover, began establishing a "resources agency", which was officially inaugurated, October 4, by Rainer Bruederle, Germany's Minister of the Economy. The agency is expected to be fully installed by 2013 or 2014. Its task will be to systematically investigate the accessibility of natural resources throughout the world and serve as advisors to German companies expressing the need. The natural resources strategy includes the establishment of "bilateral natural resources partnerships" with countries rich in resources. The activities of the three ministries under FDP ministers, Foreign Affairs, Development and Economy will be "much closer intermeshed" [4] - for the purpose of supplying Germany with natural resources.[5]

Natural Resource Partnerships

Which countries should be considered for the planned natural resources partnerships is being currently discussed in Berlin. The officially inaugurated German Resources Agency of the BGR had recently published an analysis meant to aid in answering this question. The objective of the Resources Agency's "country screening" is to create a "ranking of all of the countries" of Africa, Asia and South America "in relation to the significance for the German economy due to their natural wealth." The "assessment criteria" are the natural resources production and the natural resources potentials of the respective countries, their benefit to and significance for German industry as well the German industry's previous activities in that country. The Resources Agency has attributed coefficients to the ten "top-ranking countries" of the respective regions, in accordance with the accessibility to their natural resources. The "country risks" were then tabulated - with a coefficient ranging between -2.5 ("negative") and +2.5 ("optimal").[6]

Country "Rankings"

If the German government should follow the recommendations of the German Resources Agency, it is possible that German foreign policy will change its course. In the Africa ranking, for example, though Germany's close partner, South Africa, is far out front in first place,[7] second place goes to Zimbabwe, a country, whose government Germany has been fighting for the past ten years.[8] Third place goes to the Democratic Republic of the Congo - a country, in which Germany has absolutely no influence. In Asia, China, the West's big rival, is by far in the leading position, while western-oriented India, Indonesia and the Philippines rank far behind. In the CIS countries, Berlin's prospects look good - with Russia in first place, followed by Kazakhstan and the Ukraine - to all of which, Germany has very good relations. In South America, with Brazil and Chile in the lead, Germany also has two countries with which it is already working closely.[9]

Germany (and Europe)

The German Resources Agency, which has made its debut with the current "country screening", is to be publicly introduced tomorrow, October 26 - at the BDI's third "Natural Resources Congress". Particularly at this congress "the strategic orientation for Germany and Europe (...) will be discussed" according to the German Ministry of the Economy.[10] The German Ministers of the Economy, Development and Foreign Affairs, three state secretaries representing the ministries of the economy, development and foreign affairs, the EU's Commissioner of Development, an assistant cabinet director of the EU's Trade Commissioner, several top-level managers of German companies and the head of the World Bank's Oil, Gas and Mining Policy Division will be among the participants. The General Director of the World Trade Organization is also expected. He and his organization, according to Berlin's natural resources strategy, are to see to it that countries harboring Germany-relevant natural resources on their territories, would not place these resources under any special constraints, but rather leave then open to "global free trade," to be handed over without any sort of conditions - in the interests of the resources-deficient German industry. The plan to get the World Trade Organization to enforce free access to needed natural resources is, above all, aimed at that country, which, with its immense growth in power, would, under no circumstances, let itself be tied down with a "natural resources partnership" with Germany. It is aimed at China.

[1] see also Rohstoffkongress, Die Rohstofflücke and Kampf um Rohstoffe
[2] Für eine deutsche Rohstoffstrategie; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 20.10.2010
[3], [4] Bundesregierung bringt neue Rohstoffstrategie auf den Weg; www.bmwi.de 20.10.2010
[5] see also Ressourcen entwickeln
[6] Rohstoffwirtschaftliche Bewertung der Länder Afrikas, Asiens, der Gemeinschaft Unabhängiger Staaten (GUS) mit Georgien und Südamerikas im Hinblick auf die Bedeutung für Deutschland, September 2010
[7] see also Junior Partner South Africa (I) and Junior Partner South Africa (II)
[8] see also Human Rights in Africa (II) and Western Liberal
[9] The "Rankings" are: Africa: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Kongo, Zambia, Namibia, Gabun, Botsuana, Guinea, Morocco, Sierra Leone. Asia: China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Mongolia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi-Arabia, Myanmar. GUS and Georgia: Russia, Kasachstan, Ukraine, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kirgisistan, Aserbaidschan, Georgia, Belarus. South America: Brazil, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname.
[10] Gründung der Deutschen Rohstoffagentur: Mehr Transparenz auf den Rohstoffmärkten; www.bmwi.de