Hi-tech train on offer as Schroeder tours Gulf
24 February 2005, HAMBURG - A sophisticated German train that hovers on a magnetic field one centimetre above its track could one day run down the southern shore of the Gulf if enough interest is shown during Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's swing though the region next week. Accompanied by 16 business figures, Schroeder leaves Berlin 27 February 27 to meet Gulf leaders and lend his weight to commercial negotiations. A further 60 German businesspeople will visit the region under their own steam to be in atte
24 February 2005
HAMBURG - A sophisticated German train that hovers on a magnetic field one centimetre above its track could one day run down the southern shore of the Gulf if enough interest is shown during Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's swing though the region next week.
Accompanied by 16 business figures, Schroeder leaves Berlin 27 February 27 to meet Gulf leaders and lend his weight to commercial negotiations.
A further 60 German businesspeople will visit the region under their own steam to be in attendance at some stops, officials say.
Siemens and ThyssenKrupp which are promoting an 800-kilometre Bahrain-Doha-Abu Dhabi magnetic-levitation (maglev) line, have high hopes for the visit. Maglevs use magnets and electricity to not only propel the train, but hold it off the ground so no wheels are needed.
Transrapid, a joint venture between the two big German companies, has built a 30-kilometre maglev line between Shanghai's new finance district and Pudong International Airport and is moving towards building a first such line in Germany, in Munich.
The Germans hope the government of Qatar will commission a feasibility study for a Gulf maglev, but a quick decision on even that first step is not expected. The Qataris are also considering conventional rail links.
Levitation trains are only the most flamboyant of the products on offer. Germany is also expected to stress its strengths in plant engineering, creating factory-scale plants to churn out everything from petrochemicals to drinking water.
The delegation will visit the capitals of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen, Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) before returning to Germany on 5 March.
With his popularity strained by lacklustre economic growth and high joblessness, Schroeder is hoping that export deals will improve his political fortunes. Business people are at the same time keen to use the chancellor's political aura to gain access to Gulf officials.
"Being invited to travel on the chancellor's plane impresses on your foreign partner that you are a leader in your business back in Germany. That is why the seats are so coveted," explained Michael Sasse, a spokesman for Wintershall.
A subsidiary of BASF, Wintershall has extracted oil and gas in Qatar for nearly 20 years. Sasse noted that the energy business is also closely intertwined with politics in many nations, making a sign of political support from Berlin valuable.
While Schroeder is unlikely to discuss the details of engineering deals, he could become directly involved in negotiations involving armaments. Under German law, those exports require a clearance from Berlin.
The German Defence Ministry may itself be a vendor since it reportedly no longer needs hundreds of second-hand Leopard-II-A4 main battle tanks, Marder armoured infantry vehicles and PzH 2000 self- propelled howitzers. The UAE is reportedly interested in buying some.
German media have also reported UAE interest in the silent, fuel- cell-powered U31 submarine made by HDW of Kiel, while Rheinmetall says it was told at the IDEX defence fair in Abu Dhabi this month to expect a UAE order for its Fuchs armoured reconnaissance vehicles.
In Kuwait, Schroeder is additionally expected to attend the signing of an economic pact between the two nations and give a speech to business leaders. Berlin sources say foreign-policy issues will play only a lesser role on the trip.
Subject: German news