Germany's next foreign aid minister a surprise pick

Gerd Müller, Germany's minister for food, agriculture and consumer protection, will succeed Dirk Niebel as the country's minister for international development. Photo by: CSU / CC BY-NC-SA

Gerd Müller has been tapped to succeed Dirk Niebel as Germany’s minister for international development.

Müller is a member of the CSU, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s small conservative coalition partner from Bavaria, and has been a secretary of state in the ministry for food, agriculture and consumer protection since 2005.

His appointment came as a bit of a surprise since he’s not been described as an international development expert. But Müller has been part of Merkel’s ruling coalition for years, and he served at the agriculture ministry during the 2008 global food crisis, which was characterized by sharply rising commodity prices.

Under Müller, the BMZ is expected to continue efforts to strengthen its ties with the private sector. But the doctor of economics may sharpen the agency’s focus on trade, an issue he has been engaged in for years.

In October, Müller praised Germany’s continued contribution to the Standards and Trade Development Facility, a cross-institutional initiative coordinated by the World Trade Organization that helps developing countries comply with sanitary and other standards set by foreign trading partners and leverage aid-for-trade schemes.

“This initiative helps to improve consumer protection in the participating countries in the fields of food safety and animal and plant health,” Müller said at the time. “Furthermore, it makes taking part in world trade easier for many countries.”

With his background in food, economics and trade, Müller could become a strong voice for a new type of global agreement to succeed the Millennium Development Goals, which expire in 2015 — although it remains to be seen how much influence the chancellery would allow him to wield.

Müller’s first priorities may be closer to home: he stands to inherit a ministry that has gained notoriety due to some of his predecessor’s personnel politics and public outbursts. He may find a need to reshape the agency’s image and improve staff morale.

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    Rolf Rosenkranz

    Rolf Rosenkranz oversees a talented team of in-house journalists, correspondents and guest contributors located around the globe. Since joining Devex in early 2008, Rolf has been instrumental in growing its fledgling news operation into the leading online source for global development news and analysis. Previously, Rolf was managing editor at Inside Health Policy, a subscription-based news service in Washington. He has reported from Africa for the Johannesburg-based Star and its publisher, Independent News & Media, as well as the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, a German daily.

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