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The wrangling over the planned acquisition of a minority stake by the Chinese shipping company Cosco in one of the three container terminals in the German port of Hamburg is a prime example of the new vigilance of German politicians. Chinese is no longer being taken without hesitation, no matter how tempting it may be.
A careful evaluation of the deal by the Ministry of Economics is not only warranted. It is a matter of urgency. Especially since part of the critical infrastructure is to be sold to a Chinese state-owned company. Factually, approval of the investment would mean the loss of another bit of independence as far as logistics and supplies to the Federal Republic are concerned.
Supporters of the Chinese takeover certainly consider this mere hysteria. After all, their argument is that it involves only four berths and 14 container gantry cranes – a fraction of the capacity of the Port of Hamburg. But the current energy supply situation is a painful reminder of where ever-increasing dependence on an autocratic state can lead.
The author of today’s Opinion, former German Minister of Defense Rudolf Scharping, regards the economies and societies of China and Germany as already “dependent on each other”. If this is the case, then it would be one more reason to reject the port participation to avoid becoming more dependent on the economy of a systemic rival.
Preserving our independence comes with a price. And we will never all agree on just how high that price ought to be. But it is high time to make down payments.
Cosco’s port stake: joy in Hamburg, mistrust in Berlin
The Chinese want it. Hamburg’s parliament wants it. And HHLA, the operator of the Port of Hamburg, also wants it. The Chinese shipping company Cosco is to acquire a stake in the Port of Hamburg – but could be stopped by the German Federal Ministry of Economics. Specifically, the deal is for a 35 percent minority stake in “Tollerort,” one of the three container terminals in the Port of Hamburg. The site has four berths and 14 container gantry cranes, and is also very well integrated with five railway tracks for the inland transport of goods.
At the start of thHamburg’sHamburgs port authorities again warned the German government not to block the potential participation of Cosco. “A refusal to the Chinese would be a disaster not only for the port but for Germany,” Axel Mattern told Reuters. The CEO of Port of Hamburg Marketing is certain: “The entry of the Chinese into the operating company would be a huge gain for the port and not a threat, especially since Cosco will soon be the world’s largest shipping company.”
However, Economy Minister Robert Habeck needs to approve the project – and there seem to be serious reservations in his ministry about the Chinese involvement. An investment audit is currently underway under the Foreign Trade and Payments Act. The case in question involves “the acquisition of a stake in a domestic company by a non-EU acquirer in the cross-sector investment review procedure”.