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'Only losers in economic war with Russia'

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'Only losers in economic war with Russia'
Volkswagen is the German company with the biggest turnover Russia. Photo: DPA
14:18 CEST+02:00
German businesses are lobbying hard against imposing tougher sanctions on Russia after the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, warning further sanctions would hurt the country's exports and threaten German jobs.

One in four German companies doing business abroad are already feeling the consequences of current sanctions, according to the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK).

Companies doing business in both Russia and the United States are particularly affected, DIHK foreign trade expert Volker Treier told the Rheinische Post on Monday.

"The different sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union force export companies to evaluate each individual contract separately," Treier said.

"We expect a decline in exports to Russia of ten percent," Treier added in the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Tuesday. "That is a €4 billion drop. That loss hits us hard.”

‘25,000 jobs in danger’

The head of the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, a lobbying group, last week demanded an immediate ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.

"Due to the decline in trade with Russia and Ukraine in 2014, 25,000 jobs in Germany are already in danger," claimed the head of the committee, Eckhard Cordes.

Cordes made his statement before the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 with a suspected missile, believed to be fired from the territory of pro-Russian separatists.

The German Association for Small and Medium-sized Businesses (BVMW) warned that its members would suffer from further sanctions against Russia.

"In an economic war with Russia, there would be only losers," its president Mario Ohoven told Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper.

Most of the 6,300 German companies active in Russia were small and medium-sized businesses, said Ohoven.

"An embargo or similar coercive measures against Russia would particularly hit many of our export-oriented medium-sized businesses," he added.

The head of DIHK's Russia and Eastern Europe division offered a more cautious take. Tougher sanctions were "not desirable," Tobias Baumann told The Local.

But he said it was "hard to say" whether harsher measures against Russia would necessarily result in lost jobs in Germany. "I would be careful with that," he said.

'Economy comes second’

Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said a tough line against Russia was required regardless of the concerns of businesses.

"The economic perspective is not decisive," Gabriel said on Monday.

Anger at Russia in Germany over the alleged downing of flight MH17 by pro-Russian separatists has not been as obvious in Germany as in the USA, United Kingdom or Australia.

Thirty-five percent of European exports to Russia come from Germany.

According to EAC Consulting, the 30 biggest German companies on the DAX stock exchange made €22 billion in revenue in Russia in 2012.

Carmakers Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW rely most heavily on the country for business.

And German energy firms are also wary of how a long-term conflict between Russia and the West could affect their business prospects. E.on, a producer of electrical power and natural gas, has invested €8 billion in Russia in recent years.

European sanctions have so far only targeted individuals connected to the unrest in Ukraine.

SEE ALSO: Europe threatens Russia with sanctions over MH17

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