Waren-Verein: Concerns about the future of free trade

The annual dinner of the Waren-Verein der Hamburger Börse e.V., which takes place every year, is an important barometer of the mood for trading. The most important buyers and traders for nuts and dried fruit in Germany and other European countries meet here.


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Traders in Europe generally experienced a good year, but how will the future look like? Frank-Christoph Rump, the new chairman, expressed some concerns in his inaugural speech, which are shared by many in the hall: 

“We are dependent on free markets, the dismantling of trade barriers and reliable partnerships. These have been increasingly called into question in recent years. We are observing with concern a reorientation of strong forces in the USA in foreign, economic and geopolitical terms, which is not afraid of conflict, especially with long-standing partners and allies. Action rather than hope, on the other hand, seems to be the motto when we look at our other important trading partner China. Its most prominent international project is the “One Belt one Road Initiative”. The New Silk Road is a multilateral infrastructure project that has the potential to bring about a lasting change in the global flow of goods”.

Rump takes over from Thomas Haas-Rickertsen, who headed the Waren-Verein from 2007 to 2019. He also warned of the lack of planning security on the subject of Brexit. (The election of Boris Johnson as prime minister has made things clearer in the meantime). The Commonwealth and the Corporation of London have traditionally been role-models for a world of free trade. 

The Keynote Speaker of the evening, the first Mayor of Hamburg, Dr. Peter Tschentscher also underlined the importance of constructive action on the world stage. He reminded the guests that Hamburg was the official end point of the Silk Road – and the importance of initiatives such as the ‘New Silk Road’ for the progress of world trade. He defended the climate balance of shipping, which causes only 3g CO2 per ton with large container ships – instead of 700g for air freight. 

The most important function of the Waren-Verein für den Handel is its judgements on disputes in international trade. For more than 100 years, the Waren-Verein has maintained an independent arbitral tribunal of international importance, whose arbitral awards have been respected not only in trade but also in jurisprudence and jurisprudence. The court of arbitration is staffed by merchants and is legally advised by its in-house counsel, who is qualified to hold the office of judge. 

According to Rump, one of the important initiatives of the Waren-Verein will be digitization in the future. In future, all members will be able to participate in meetings and conferences online, and a block chain project for supply chains is on the way. The association also works with Frucom and the WWF in projects on pesticides and fisheries. 

The 230 guests from Germany, Europe, India and the USA were pleased about a mostly good year with growing demand and good prices. Less was said about the pressure on prices exerted by the major retail chains in Germany and Europe such as Lidl, Aldi, Rewe and others. 

Of course, the table talks, accompanied by excellent food, allowed for some discussions with entrepreneurs, experts, scientists and politicians. Donald Trump, organic products, packaging and plastics, but also the last holiday trip were important topics. Various doubts were expressed about fair trade labels. Some traders believe it’s a trick to upgrade low and medium quality products without organic certificates in consumers’ minds. Basically, the established traders still consider the trade of organic products as problematic, because it is not a uniform standard. Similar to their new chairman, many guests expressed their incomprehension that countries like the USA and Great Britain have recently started to propagate ‘America First’ and ‘Britain First’, after having brought the idea of globalization to the world for centuries. The perfectly organized evening ended in a good mood in line with Hanseatic tradition – with a beer at the bar of the Hotel Grand Elysée Hamburg.

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