I’m here for the annual Hannover Messe trade fair in Hannover, Germany—billed as the world’s largest industrial trade show. We’ve historically covered the show in odd-numbered years, as there is a larger focus on fluid power and motion control components then. But this year is special, as it’s the first time in the venerable exhibition’s history that the United States is serving as the partner country.
The head of state of the partner country generally opens the fair along with the German Chancellor. So tonight, it was President Obama with German Chancellor Angela Merkel doing the ceremonial duties at the Hannover Convention Center. It’s tradition to hold the ceremonies there, and not at the huge fairgrounds on the southeast side of the city. Although the security concerns were greater at the HCC—I went through three separate security checks—officials wanted to keep up the tradition. This made getting a ticket to the roughly 2,000 seat venue difficult, as an estimated 20,000 requests were made for tickets from the press and interested exhibitors. Even the limited amount of press who were let in had to watch on TVs from an upstairs press room (I flew 4,000 miles so I could be frisked in order to watch a TV? Bizarre).
Obama came to town in the midst of some controversy about the potential Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal between the European Union and the U.S. Thousands of German protestors hit the streets over the weekend; some estimated the protestors at 35,000 but one German official told me that number was relatively small for a European protest.
The ceremony itself featured synchronized robotic arms, break dancers, some miming to techno music, an impressive light show, and even a few snippets of Broadway musicals to highlight American creativity. The Hermes award was given out at the beginning of the presentations. Hermes is an international technology prize awarded annually to an outstanding new product debuting at the Fair. This year’s winner was Harting Technology Group’s MICA mini computer. MICA is a modular platform of open hardware and software that the company says, “can be swiftly and economically adapted to many industrial application areas.”
Obama spoke to the crowd for several minutes, and talked up the United States as great place to invest.
“We are ready to do more business with Germany, more business with Europe and more business with the world,” Obama said. He noted that over the past six years, the U.S. has created more than 14 million jobs, including hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs. And, he noted, “last year for the first time in decades, the U.S. became the top market for German exports.”
Obama highlighted America’s multitude of excellent universities, its manufacturing productivity, and the country’s large and educated workforce, as he tried to woo the manufacturers present to “set up shop” in the U.S. But he said there are still too many barriers to trade between his country and Europe—regulations, rules, tariffs, standards, etc.—in actively lobbying for the passage of TTIP in the near future.