Habeck in the USA: Three cities, four days, six questions

Washington, New York, Chicago – Robert Habeck was once again in the USA to check on things. A few questions remain unanswered.

It has almost become a tradition: Once a year, Robert Habeck flies to the United States to check on everything going well in the most important foreign market for German companies as Minister of Economic Affairs. And as Vice Chancellor, to take care of relations with Germany's most powerful ally. The Green Party spent four days in the USA, in Washington, New York and Chicago. Time for a few questions:

1.Wait a minute, Chicago? Wasn't there something?

If Habeck had only wanted to visit a region where many German companies have set up shop, he could have flown to Georgia or Texas. 5,800 companies have invested $619 billion in the USA and created more than 900,000 jobs. Many also in the Midwest around the Great Lakes, such as the German mechanical engineering company Trumpf, whose new fully automated Smart Factory Habeck stopped by.

Chicago has another plus: It is Obama City, this is where the ex-president lives, and this is where he shouted to the cheering people on the evening of his first election victory: “Change has come to America.”

You don't have to come up with the K question that follows him everywhere anyway – when will the Greens decide? And who will the Greens choose? For now, Habeck would be more than happy if he could implement something similar to Joe Biden's Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in Germany, unlimited tax refunds that Obama's successor is currently using to stimulate climate-friendly investments. Because unlike the German economy, which is cruising along with, let's call it, 0.2 percent growth this year, the US economy has recently been booming at over 3 percent. Unlike America, Germany unfortunately has, as Habeck says, “the strictest debt brake in the world.”

2. What did Habeck get out of Washington for the German economy?

As much as Habeck admires the IRA, he also fears it. For two reasons: Since the US subsidy pact came into force a year ago, company bosses have constantly been on his mat in Berlin-Mitte. They are asking for more funding for projects that have long been planned because they would get even more money for their investments elsewhere. And so forth. The funding rules also contain “Made in America” clauses that define exactly what proportion of a product must have been manufactured in, well, America. The pressure is growing on German companies to relocate entire production sectors to the USA.

Germany, France and the entire European Union have been negotiating exceptions for friendly countries, at least for certain sectors, for over a year. As expected, Habeck was unable to achieve anything tangible during his talks in Washington. The “historically good” German-American relations don’t help either.

The reason for this is the upcoming US elections. A Washington political expert put it this way in a confidential meeting: The surest way to immediately get into trouble with both political camps is to use the word “free trade.” Now Habeck wouldn't be Habeck if he didn't still feel movement and “serious will.” However, not much will change before the elections. And then? It all depends on the outcome.

3. How does Habeck deal with the man whose name he doesn't want to mention?

There is a man that Robert Habeck doesn't like to talk about, even though he follows him every step of the way throughout his journey. The man wins one primary election after the next and can no longer be prevented as a Republican presidential candidate – and is therefore a silent guest in every conversation.

If you ask Habeck what Donald Trump 2.0 would mean for the German economy – after all, the man has threatened import tariffs to protect the domestic economy from foreign competition, which could lead to losses in the three-digit billion range on the German side – you ask him about it , then the minister basically says: “I find these speculations completely wrong.” The election campaign wasn't over, it hadn't even started yet.

At times it almost seems as if Habeck is denying himself the thought that this Trump could win in November. Which is surprising in that the same Habeck still resents his previous government for how little it had prepared the country for conceivable hardships such as a gas emergency or Trump 1.0. The motto was that what could not be could not be.

And today? At one point, Habeck recalls how under the first Trump administration, everything that existed in terms of ongoing conversation formats was “basically destroyed.” Habeck therefore wants to intensify, deepen and solidify all contacts. Nevertheless, Habeck is not looking for a direct line to the Trump camp, at least not on this trip. It would be interesting to find out how people there think about the messages that Habeck brought with him:

That Germany meets NATO's notorious two percent target.

The fact that the trade volume between the two countries has recently increased, but the German balance sheet surplus has actually decreased – also because Germany is now buying American LNG instead of Russian pipeline gas.

Trump had always vehemently demanded both. But Habeck neither speaks to nor about him. During a short trip across the Chicago River, the ship passes a huge, shiny silver-blue skyscraper, Habeck looks almost demonstratively towards the southern bank. But for a moment, directly above the minister, the name of the unpronounceable floats in meter-high letters.

4.How does Robert Habeck feel about solidarity with Israel?

The Vice Chancellor doesn't often stand in front of the UN headquarters on New York's East River to explain to the press what he just discussed with the UN Secretary General. They also talked about the world's crises, Ukraine, Gaza, Iran, Taiwan, and his idea of ​​a “diplomatic initiative” so that “space doesn't become the next battlefield.” Oh, and about this aid corridor for the Gaza Strip, in which Germany now wants to participate.

“No, in my opinion this is not a shift” in Israel policy, claims Habeck – even if German diplomacy has always looked for common solutions with Israel, not explicitly without it. A lot has gone wrong in the last few days. “You have to be honest and say that support for Israel's actions in the Gaza Strip is no longer very strong at the international level,” Habeck had already said in Washington. It became known that the US military wanted to build a temporary port for Gaza.

So what about Habeck's solidarity? He met with representatives of New York's Jewish community. Solidarity and support in times of rising anti-Semitism – a matter close to Habeck's heart, as we know from his ten-minute video, which he recorded four weeks after the “terrible attacks on Jewish life”.

For him, for the entire federal government, Habeck now explained in the shadow of the UN high-rise, the word of state continues to apply. And yet it is a task “especially for Germans” to tell the Israeli government that “you also have to change something in the Gaza Strip.”

5. Will Habeck now become Germany's chief diplomat?

Even as Vice Chancellor, you are to a certain extent responsible for everything, so Habeck is also allowed to poach in the territory of his party friend and competitor, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. It's normal that he speaks to various US ministers in Washington. Meetings with security advisor Jake Sullivan are nothing special either, the wires are short. Students at New York's Columbia Business School were able to see for themselves during a speech on Friday that the speaker Habeck, who likes to freely associate himself, will not become a diplomat any time soon.

The German Minister for Economy and Climate Action boldly called on the USA to finally do more to protect the climate. Because while he, Habeck, is bringing Germany back on track, the USA is still miles away from the path to climate neutrality. And in general, politicians of his generation believe that they have to worry about solving the problems in the here and now. Or as Habecksch says: “You have to solve your fucking problems.”

6.What connects two German astronauts with Selesky's security advisor and the Saudi king?

Answer: All three were already standing in front of the White House and were not allowed in by the Secret Service. Problems with login. Alexander Gerst and Matthias Maurer made it onto the International Space Station ISS, but they were not allowed in to meet the head of the National Space Council.

Habeck had taken them along specifically to campaign with them for a German to be allowed to fly with them when NASA launches its “Artemis” lunar landing mission in a few years. The Europeans are supplying a service module that will, among other things, supply the astronauts with oxygen. The largest donor is Germany.

And now they were standing out here. For this purpose, space coordinator Shirag Parikh came out to the astronauts to talk to them for two hours during a walk. Afterwards, he simply took the two of them into the White House Complex, and they even got an exclusive tour of the Oval Office from security advisor Jake Sullivan.

Was it of any use? Things were looking pretty good, they said after the talks. Unless something comes up. The man whose name Habeck prefers not to mention, for example.