Modi vaunts India at world’s biggest trade fair

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened this year's Hannover Messe (Hanover Trade Fair) on Monday, the world's biggest industry expo, which this year has a distinctly sub-continental flavour.

Modi vaunts India at world's biggest trade fair
Modi and Merkel at the opening of the Hannover Messe industry trade show. Photo: DPA

India is the partner country for the 2015 trade show, which hosts 6,500 exhibitors from 70 different countries and expects 217,000 visitors over its five days.

Modi told guests that India's development programme was “a historic opportunity for German companies” as the government plans to upgrade housing, energy generation and transport infrastructure across the country.

“Indo-German partnership should and will flourish,” he added.

Across the exhibition floor, Indian lions and the motto “Make in India”, urging investors to take a fresh look at manufacturing in the country, dominated the scene.

“India is showing itself with a new strength,” Merkel said in her own speech. “We have an exciting time before us.”

The Chancellor noted that Germany is India's biggest trading partner in the European Union, with around €16 billion of annual trade between the two countries.

But she added that there was intense competition among European countries to snap up Indian custom.

Modi was fresh from a visit to France, where he made a surprise order for 36 Dassault Rafale fighter jets – potentially netting France €4 billion.

German industry running to keep up

Organizers hope that this year's theme, “Integrated Industry – Join the Network”, will help promote the tools and technologies underpinning the automated factories of the future – so-called “Industry 4.0”.

Robots that tell their human colleagues when they need maintenance – bearing in mind who's on shift or on holiday – or stop gently at the slightest unexpected contact are just some of the innovations on show.

One company, Festo, presented Merkel and Modi with a pair of robotic ants designed to work together to solve complex problems.

Three-quarters of German companies surveyed by IT federation Bitkom expected networked, intelligent production processes to make a big contribution to the country's future prosperity.

But 80 percent of companies thought their own industries were behind the curve in implementing such new technologies.

They named high up-front costs, lack of specialist workers and data protection concerns as factors holding them back.

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Environment: Germany aims for carbon-neutral steel by 2050

Germany on Wednesday pledged to help its steel industry become carbon neutral by 2050, as the coronavirus pandemic squeezes a sector already in a prolonged crisis.

Environment: Germany aims for carbon-neutral steel by 2050
Economics Minister Peter Altmaier at the Steel Action Plan conference on Wednesday. Photo: DPA.

It is important to act now so the steel industry “will still be competitive and environmentally friendly … in 30 years' time,” Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said.

A proposed plan includes new criteria for awarding public contracts, a minimum quota of low-carbon or carbon-neutral steel in finished products, and a new “green steel” label, Altmaier said.

Industry figures cited by the economy ministry suggest steelmakers will need an extra €30 billion ($34 billion) to become carbon neutral by 2050.

But the plan unveiled Wednesday did not include any new government subsidies.

Europe's steel industry has been hit hard in recent years by falling prices owing to global overproduction, especially by China, and by US sanctions introduced in 2018.

The coronavirus crisis piled on more pressure with a drop in demand from key sectors such as the auto industry.

German steel production has fallen by 10 percent since 2010 and the number of workers in the sector has dropped by 4,000 to 86,000.

Industrial giant Thyssenkrupp said in May it was looking for a partner for a possible merger of its steel division, after years of troubles including a blocked merger with India's Tata Steel.

As part of its coronavirus recovery plans, Germany unveiled in June a nine-billion-euro scheme to become the world leader in green hydrogen technology.

Berlin is betting that fuel produced from renewable energy sources can both reduce carbon emissions — including in steelmaking – and stimulate the economy.