German Economy Minister, Peter Altmaier, arrives for the weekly Cabinet meeting of the German government at the chancellery in Berlin, Dec. 12, 2018.
German Economy Minister, Peter Altmaier, arrives for the weekly Cabinet meeting of the German government at the chancellery in Berlin, Dec. 12, 2018.

BERLIN - Britain’s impending departure from the European Union poses a big risk, but domestic demand is still fueling growth in the German economy, Europe’s largest, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said in an interview published Thursday.

Altmaier said Brexit, global trade conflicts and changes in automotive industry approvals had slowed economic growth in the second half of 2018, but Germany’s gross domestic product looked set to enter its 10th year of expansion in 2019.

“The order books of industry and the trades are full,” Altmaier told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper. “The chances are good that economic growth will continue for a 10th consecutive year,” the longest period of continuous growth since the 1960s.

The German government last month cut its economic growth forecast for 2018 to around 1.5 to 1.6 percent from 1.8 percent.

The German economy has shifted into a lower gear as Brexit and trade conflicts sparked by U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” policies cause business uncertainty.

German exporters are also struggling with a more general slowdown of foreign demand as the global economy cools.

Machines dig for brown coal in front of a smoking
FILE - Machines dig for coal in front of a smoking power plant near the city of Grevenbroich in Germany. Germany's economy minister says one challenge of the future is sustainable energy.

Altmaier cautioned that the prospects for continued economic expansion hinged on the ability of German industry to adapt to promising new areas such as electric mobility, sustainable energy production and artificial intelligence.

He said Brexit and a shortage of skilled labor posed risks to the economy, and many companies had not invested enough in expanding production. He called for quick parliamentary approval of a new immigration law aimed at filling those gaps.

Making it easier to attract skilled workers to Germany could boost economic growth by several tenths of a percentage point, he said, noting that Germany had some 57,000 unfilled trainee positions.

“The growth effects are difficult to quantify, but I expect that a functioning influx of migrants to the labor market could add multiple tenths of a percentage point of additional growth in Germany,” Altmaier told the paper.