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Germany's Scholz urges closer EU ties with Southeast Asia

November 14, 2022

The Asia-Pacific region is "much more than China," German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said at a meeting with business leaders in Singapore.

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (left) and Economy Minister Robert Habeck (second left) meeting business leaders in Singapore
Scholz was accompanied by Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert HabeckImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told business leaders in Singapore on Monday that Europe's biggest economy seeks to increase its cooperation with its Southeast Asian partners.

"Germany is keen on strengthening its economic ties with your region!" Scholz said on day two of his four-day tour of the region. His next stop will be Indonesia for the G20 world leaders' summit.

Shifting geopolitical priorities

The chancellor also pointed to the changing geopolitical situation with regards to both Russia's invasion of Ukraine and an increasingly dominant China.

"Deepening cooperation is crucial, because we all feel that the geopolitical ground beneath our feet is shifting," he said.

He assured other countries in the region that Germany's support for Ukraine against Russian aggression would also be applied to other countries that may face similar threats.

"No country is the 'backyard' of another," he told the conference. "The Asia-Pacific region is much more than China."

He did, however, stress that the diversification of Germany's economic ties did not mean "de-coupling," warning against what he called "protectionism in disguise." 

Scholz seeks closer economic ties in Vietnam

Scholz also signed a joint declaration with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in which they agreed to work together in the fields of climate protection, security as well as digital development and innovation.

Lee also said that he would travel to Germany next month to discuss the possible purchase of German submarines. For its part, Berlin is interested in investing in Singapore's energy transition.

What Olaf Scholz said about China

Germany is hoping to shore up its economic ties with the fast-growing economies in the region while also offering an alternative to Chinese investments.

Earlier in the month Scholz also became the first G7 leader to visit China since the outbreak of the pandemic.

China continues to be a key trade partner for Germany despite increasing concerns over Beijing's human rights record.

Scholz told his audience on Monday that he had spoken to Chinese leader Xi Jinping about a number of concerns including the "rules-based international order," "growing insecurity in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait," and "China’s approach to human rights and individual freedoms."

Germany also wants to lead in promoting green economies and told business leaders in Singapore that free trade would hinder innovation which he said was "the key to all of these global challenges."

ab/rt (dpa, Reuters)