Chinese Cargo Firm Buys German Airport A Chinese company has spent nearly $50 million to gain a shipping foothold in the heart of Europe, taking over a German cargo airport. Chinese goods may soon be assembled nearby in order to receive a coveted "Made in Germany" label.
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Chinese Cargo Firm Buys German Airport

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Chinese Cargo Firm Buys German Airport

Chinese Cargo Firm Buys German Airport

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

For Chinese companies, the boom is on. Flush with cash, some of them are looking to expand their markets in Europe. Germany has gotten a big share of that investment. You can find one example of what Chinese companies are looking to achieve at an airbase in Eastern Germany.

Reporter Brett Neely went there.

BRETT NEELY: Parchim Airport has its own place in aviation history. The Nazis based the world's first jetfighters here. After the war, it became a Soviet airbase. The Soviets left after the Berlin Wall fell - so did most of the jobs.

It's not very busy today - mostly private planes. But that will soon change. A Chinese flag now flies above the terminal, in honor of its new owners, a Chinese firm called LinkGlobal Logistics. The company's CEO, Jonathan Pang, explains why they have purchased this remote corner of Eastern Germany.

Mr. JONATHAN PANG (CEO, LinkGlobal Logistics): This airport is one of the rare airports in Europe to operate 24 hours, without time restriction.

NEELY: That's vital in the air cargo business, as are the long runways Parchim inherited from its military past. They're big enough to land a fully loaded jumbo jet. And although Parchim is surrounded by countryside, it's only a few hours by car to Berlin and Hamburg.

LinkGlobal bought the airport from the local county for $47 million. An Australian firm, Goodman International, will spend another $160 million developing the surrounding real estate into a giant logistics and industrial park.

Construction is set to begin in August. Werner Knan runs Goodman's business in Germany.

Mr. WERNER KNAN (Goodman International): Because many companies in China are highly interested to do the final assembling of their products in Germany to get the label Made in Germany and the better way to sell them in Europe because due to the quality.

NEELY: Partially made clothes and electronics will be flown into Parchim and completed at the nearby industrial park. The finished goods will be shipped out to Europe, Africa and the rest of the world. The German government wants profits from Chinese goods sold in the country to stay in Germany; and that's why it's encouraging this kind of Chinese investment.

Lutz Werner is with the Ministry of Economics and Technology.

Mr. LUTZ WERNER (Ministry of Economics and Technology): (Through translator) Trade policy can't be a one-way street. German firms have invested billions in China. Therefore we're also very interested in increasing Chinese investment in Germany.

NEELY: There's one major risk to the deal that no one had planned on: the skyrocketing price of jet fuel. So now LinkGlobal is shipping cargo on trains to far western China before flying it to Germany. It adds time to the journey, but saves money, says LinkGlobal's Jonathan Pang.

Mr. JONATHAN PANG (Chairman, LinkGlobal): Our concept is that the aircraft should fly less and the trains should go faster.

NEELY: Unemployment in this part of former East Germany is 16 percent - double the national average. The new cargo business should create hundreds of well-paid blue-collar jobs, says Udo Mitzlaff(ph), an editor with the local newspaper.

Mr. UDO MITZLAFF (Editor): (Through translator) The employment office here is already training the unemployed, with an emphasis on logistics. For example, people are getting certified as forklift operators so that they're ready once the skilled labor is needed.

NEELY: However, local resident Wieza Christian(ph) is worried those jobs won't go to Parchim's unemployed.

Mr. WIEZA CHRISTIAN: (Through translator) The problem is that it's getting taken over by a Chinese firm and whether there will be jobs for Germans or whether they'll bring in Chinese workers who will work for much lower wages, that's what I wonder.

NEELY: The company denies that, but it's a sign of the anxiety Parchimers have about hitching their future to China's economic growth.

For NPR News, I'm Brett Neely in Parchim, Germany.

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