The Economics Minister of the eastern German state of Thuringia, Wolfgang Tiefensee, has raised the possibility of temporary export restrictions in the fight against the shortage of raw materials in the EU. "In the case of timber, plastics, building materials, but also steel, I am getting more and more cries for help from the trades, but also from the automotive industry, because of supply bottlenecks and skyrocketing prices," Tiefensee said earlier this week. He wants to address the problem at the next conference of Germany's state economics ministers.
Tiefensee pleaded for a rapid expansion of steel and plastics production and sawmill capacities, and the development of recycling or alternative raw materials. As a last resort, however, temporary export restrictions by the EU are also conceivable, he said. "If important raw materials are needed here, then we have to make sure they are available here."
Hans Peter Wollseifer, president of the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts (ZDH), expressed a similar view. Wollseifer told the "Münchner Merkur" newspaper that the partly drastic increase in prices for building materials was presenting many construction and finishing trades with enormous problems. "Should the situation of our businesses continue to worsen, export restrictions should at least be considered on an interim basis in view of the really very tense situation."
Between the short-term sharp rise in prices and the original price calculation, many companies "now often have a big gap," Wollseifer said . "If the companies then have to fulfill the contract without adjusting the price, they are effectively making losses." That means that many skilled craft enterprises face existential problems. In the worst-case scenario, they could face insolvency.
Tiefensee also predicts that jobs and the rapid economic upswing after the coronavirus crisis could be at risk - especially in the SME sector. The SPD politician announced that he would also write a letter to the German Minister of Economics, Peter Altmaier.
Tiefensee said the main reasons for the shortage of raw materials were reduced production and transport capacities worldwide as a result of the coronavirus crisis. In addition, he said, there is increased demand from China and the United States. "The surge in demand in the US coupled with significantly higher margins for producers are causing exports to grow excessively and sucking the European market dry," Tiefensee said.
According to the ZDH, the consequences of this development are now slowing down more and more craft enterprises. "The first companies have already announced short-time work because the materials could not be procured," Wollseifer said. Some construction sites are now threatened with a construction stop due to a lack of materials, he said.
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