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Leonid Bershidsky

Germany Enters the Global Economic Wars

Economics Minister Peter Altmaier is shifting policy decisively in favor of economic sovereignty.

Merkel and Altmaier.

Merkel and Altmaier.

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

With the U.S. and China increasingly competing rather than cooperating, Europe can’t stick to the old concept of globalization. A draft of Germany’s new industrial strategy, presented by Economy Minister Peter Altmaier on Tuesday, is all about surviving in a competitive world — an approach he wants to sell to the German public first and then to the rest of the European Union.

The competition, Altmaier told a press conference in Berlin, is between three major economic blocs: the U.S., Europe and Asia. In this struggle for dominance, Europe — and Germany in particular — is being relegated to the status of passive observer. That, he said, is due in part to the support for national economic champions in the U.S. and China. “There is hardly a successful country that relies exclusively and without exception on market forces to accomplish its tasks,” Altmaier wrote in his strategy paper. Germany and Europe, he argued, should move in the same direction, or they risk losing more than the economic competition: