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Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Germany and Thailand and the 50th anniversary of the German-Thai Chamber of Commerce

28.04.2012

-- translation of advance text--

Minister Pongsvas Svasti,
Senator Jetn,
Mr
Sunai,
Members of Parliament,
Mr
Heckhausen, Mr Pracha,
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very honoured to speak to you on the occasion of two important German-Thai anniversaries. We are celebrating 150 years of diplomatic relations between Germany and Thailand and 50 years of the German-Thai Chamber of Commerce. I’m pleased that three members of the German Bundestag have accompanied me on this visit to honour this special occasion.

When two countries can look back on a friendship that has lasted for a century and a half, this friendship is indeed based on a strong foundation.Both Thailand and Germany firmly believe in the values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.These values bind us together.

I was impressed to learn that “Thailand” means “the land of the free”.We feel a deep respect for Thailand’s long experience in maintaining its freedom.We will support Thailand in its efforts to defend democracy.

We know from our own history that freedom and democracy cannot be taken for granted.It was only after 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, that all Germans were finally able to enjoy freedom and democratic rights.

Our common values are the solid foundation of our successful cooperation.

The exchange between our schools and universities is lively. We have 1000 Thai students in Germany, and we would love to see many more.

Germans are fascinated by Thailand’s rich culture and ancient history.I am proud that we can contribute to the restoration of the majestic site in Ayutthaya.I visited the project today and was deeply impressed by what I saw.

We will never forget the support that was extended to German tourists hit by the tsunami at a time when the Thai people themselves were in need of help.

As is true for Thailand, Germany’s prosperity is dependent on its ability to innovate and on its international links.Thai-German bilateral trade is booming.Last year we saw an increase of 13 percent.This does not come as a surprise.Thailand is number 17 worldwide in the Doing Business Index and number 27 in competitiveness.600 German companies hold investments in Thailand. German companies do not look for short-term investment.Our philosophy is to be engaged in countries on a long-term basis and to form partnerships on equal terms.

On this occasion, let me extend my congratulations to you, Mr Heckhausen, and to you, Mr Pracha, and to all your Thai and German members.

Thailand is a founding member of ASEAN. It was here in Bangkok in 1967 that five countries decided to intensify their cooperation. Their new form of cooperation triggered economic development and unleashed the region’s tremendous energy.

I am convinced that the announcement made at the last ASEAN Summit that a common market of goods, capital and services would be established by 2015 will give a boost not only to the region, but to the world economy as a whole.

With 620 million consumers, the ASEAN common market will be even bigger than the single market of the EU. We think this major step towards more integration is very forward-looking.

When looking at the crisis in Europe some people have begun to doubt whether the EU would continue to serve as an inspiration for ASEAN.

The term “euro crisis” is misleading. The euro is not in crisis. On the contrary, the exchange rate is stable, as is the rate of inflation in the eurozone itself. Within ten years, the euro has become the world’s number two reserve currency.

During the financial crisis, governments had to mobilize billions to shore up the international banking system and produce huge stimulus packages.Levels of sovereign debt kept skyrocketing.In the end, the financial markets reflected doubts as to whether some euro countries would ever be able to repay their massive debts. Thus, the sovereign debt crisis turned into a crisis of confidence.

The provision of short-term liquidity alone will not be enough to overcome the crisis.What we need to do is convince the markets that the eurozone will be an area of enduring financial stability in the future.

What we need is solidarity, sound finances and growth.

Of course, we are showing solidarity with the affected member states.No question about it.

Solidarity has to be accompanied by sound finances. All EU member states must exercise strict discipline with regard to their expenditure. You cannot solve a debt crisis by accumulating more and more new debt.

However, austerity alone will not be enough. The member states also need to get back on the road to sustainable growth and strengthened competitiveness. Fiscal discipline and sustainable growth are the two pillars on which we will build the success of the European economic model.

The European fiscal compact has to be applied strictly, especially with regard to better coordination of economic and financial policy.

The ASEAN states have been through a similar experience.They were able to overcome the severe debt crisis of the 1990s because they introduced tough structural reforms under IMF conditions and also because they enhanced their cooperation with one another. We have carefully studied your experience.

Today, the ASEAN region is again one of the most dynamic regions on the planet.Like the ASEAN countries, the EU will emerge from the crisis stronger than it was before the crisis began.Europe is on the right track.

I am convinced that Europe is a very attractive partner for ASEAN countries.

Seven European countries are among the world’s ten most competitive economies.Europe is the largest source of foreign direct investment in Asia. Europe’s single market is the primary destination for Asian investors.

As long as the Doha round cannot be concluded, Europe wants to conclude further bilateral agreements with Asian countries.

Having signed a free trade agreement with South Korea, we also want to advance free trade with the ASEAN region. We are eager to see the EU conclude a free trade agreement with Thailand. Negotiations with Singapore and Malaysia for such an agreement are progressing rapidly. And we would like to see more of our ASEAN partners engage in further negotiations with the EU.

Germany and the EU have a strong interest in further stepping up EU-ASEAN cooperation beyond the economic field.

We hope to see the EU accede to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in the near future.We believe everyone will benefit from greater EU participation in the evolving Asian architecture, including the East Asia Summit process.

I would like to take this opportunity to express our great hopes for Myanmar.We are observing historic developments in the country.

We consider the positive developments in Myanmar to be a result of our successful European policy as well as of our cooperation with ASEAN countries.It is important that Myanmar stays on reform course. We will continue to support this reform process.As a signal of our encouragement I will visit Myanmar in the next days.

Europe’s unique experience with sharing sovereignty may also serve as an inspiration for new forms of global governance. In a globalized world, we face global challenges that no single country and no single region can tackle on its own.

At the same time emerging new powers are demanding more influence on the international agenda. For us, the rise of major new players offers a great opportunity for more cooperation. From an early stage, Germany has supported reforms in international forums such as the World Bank and the IMF, and pushed for reforms in the UN Security Council.

We want to cooperate with new partners. For us they are more than simply emerging economies.Germany sees them as new players with a voice in the conduct of world affairs. This is the spirit of our new globalization policy, which I presented in Berlin in February.

In a globalizing world with competing powers, the EU and ASEAN as integrated communities are special partners. Our common experience in cooperating and transcending national borders can serve as inspiration for shaping a future international order.

Thailand and Germany are both founding members and key players in their respective regional communities. We share a strong commitment to free markets and rules-based globalization. We both believe in freedom, and we share common values.We want to improve the regional and international human rights architecture. We want to make even better use of the great potential of our cooperation, to our mutual benefit, to the benefit of ASEAN and the European Union.

Let me raise my glass and propose a toast to the long-standing partnership between Thailand and Germany, and to the next 150 years of our friendship.