April 11, 2018 / 7:38 AM / 6 months ago

German engineering chief urges easing of Russia sanctions, hopes for export recovery

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany’s VDMA engineering association is hoping for a sustained recovery in demand from the Russian market, its president told Reuters in an interview, calling on the West to lift some sanctions against Moscow.

German engineering exports to Russia rose by 22.5 percent to 5.3 billion euros ($6.54 billion) last year, but that was still far from a 2012 peak when exports reached almost 8 billion euros, said VDMA president Carl Martin Welcker.

“Russia has developed very positively over the past year, after all the disappointing years before,” said Welcker, adding that the Russian market remains very sensitive and unstable politically.

Welcker also called for the West to reconsider sanctions imposed over Russia’s role in the Ukraine conflict.

“Economic sanctions have little political impact. In this respect, we want them to be critically scrutinized. The things that work should be upheld and others should be loosened if possible,” he added.

Russia’s rouble has slumped and investors have sold off Russian assets since the United States targeted allies of President Vladimir Putin with new sanctions last Friday to punish Moscow for alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Germany relies on Russia for roughly a third of the gas it uses and, before Western states imposed sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, Europe’s biggest economy exported about 38 billion euros of goods to Russia.

Exports to Russia have fallen significantly since 2014 due to the decline in the rouble and the European Union’s sanctions against Russia.

The relationship between Berlin and Moscow has been further strained since last month when Germany joined the United States and other European countries in standing with Britain in a standoff over the attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

Welcker said in the meantime the Russian market has attracted many competitors such as those from South Korea and China but he expects German firms to regain market share.

($1 = 0.8109 euros)

Reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff, writing by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Adrian Croft

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