Germany-Europe-Asia: Shaping the 21st century together
DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Anke Reiffenstuel, Peter Schoof (The Philippine Star) - September 27, 2020 - 12:00am

In the past few years, the importance of the Indo-Pacific region has increased markedly. With its Policy Guidelines for the Indo-Pacific, the German Government is setting out the course for its future policy. More than half the world’s population lives in countries around the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. The region is gaining in economic and political importance. ASEAN lies at the very centre of the region. Its relations to both Germany and the EU are growing ever closer. Hopefully by the end of 2020 we will be able to form a strategic partnership.

Shifting geopolitical power structures in the Indo-Pacific have a direct impact on Germany and the EU: Our economies are closely connected through global supply chains. Major trading routes pass through the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea and the Pacific. Conflicts in the region would have immediate repercussions for Europe and Germany. Open markets and free trade are crucial for Germany as a trading nation. The share of the broader region in Germany’s trade balance now amounts to over 20 percent of our total trade in goods or just under 420 billion euro (2019).

Rapid economic growth in the Indo-Pacific region also brings about rising greenhouse gas emissions as a challenge for the global climate and ecosystem. In the interest of future generations, our goal must be to ensure environmentally friendly and socially compatible growth in the Indo-Pacific region.

These are only a few of the reasons why the German Government has decided to open a new chapter of cooperation with the Indo-Pacific region and with ASEAN in particular. We share the view on the region as a space for inclusive cooperation and engagement. Germany and the ASEAN member-states form relations based on partnership and common interests. This is all the more the case for the European Union, which is why it is high time that the EU and ASEAN become full-fledged strategic partners.

Multilateralism has become more important than ever before. Stronger political, economic and security policy networks preserve both sovereignty and our ability to act. Germany and the EU are – as is ASEAN – committed to the further integration of the Indo-Pacific region into multilateral organizations and fora and to the promotion of regional multilateral structures in the spirit of true partnership. Multilateral agreements are the most effective way to make progress in climate and environmental protection, rules-based trade, disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation, as well as the protection of human rights.

In the coming years, Germany will strategically position itself and step up its engagement vis-à-vis ASEAN. We will expand our cooperation with ASEAN institutions, continue to support the ASEAN Secretariat and strengthen the role of the EU as a partner of ASEAN in close cooperation with its EU partners. To this end, we will spare no effort to fill a new Strategic Partnership between ASEAN and the EU with life and substance, including a more substantial contribution to security and stability. We are committed to safeguarding the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region. This is in particular true for supporting a substantive and legally binding Code of Conduct for the South China Sea, based on the principles of the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas.

To tackle the common challenge for the world’s climate, we intend to step up our cooperation with partners in the region in all aspects of climate policy, from adaptation to climate change, protection of biodiversity, to promoting renewable energies and energy efficiency.

And as the region’s share in our trading balance is steadily growing, we emphasize the importance of a coherent network of free and comprehensive trade agreements in addition to a comprehensive EU/ASEAN agreement. Through these agreements we will be able to eliminate existing obstacles to trade and investment on both sides as well as to agree on important environmental and social standards, climate protection and competition policy, subsidies and the protection of intellectual property.

We hope that by opening this new chapter of cooperation we will be able to contribute to a secure, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region, with ASEAN as a central player. The Indo-Pacific region is important to us! Not only as Germans, but as Europeans.

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Anke Reiffenstuel is Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Philippines and Peter Schoof is Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Indonesia, ASEAN and Timor-Leste.

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