The following interview with Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on economic issues, the Rio+20 Conference and the Germany Year in Brazil 2013 was published in the daily Die Welt as well as its online edition on 2 July 2012.
Question: Mr Westerwelle, what makes Brazil important for German foreign policy?
Brazil is one of the world’s new powerhouses. It’s in Germany’s interest to lose no time in building a strategic relationship with these new global players – a relationship that goes far beyond economic cooperation. Such strategic partnerships bring mutual benefit. We see Brazil as a key partner in shaping globalization. We share the same ideas about human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Brazil and Germany cooperate closely on a whole range of multilateral and global issues – including protecting the climate and tropical forests, for example. We are jointly pressing for progress on the urgently needed reform of the UN Security Council and we’re working together in the G20 on a reform of the global financial system. Anyone who wants to shape globalization needs strong partners. That’s why we’re going to further intensify our political dialogue with Brazil.
How do you see the prospects for German business in Brazil – especially given the financial and economic turmoil of recent years?
The economic ties between our two countries are extremely close. There are more than 900 German companies operating in the São Paulo area alone, currently the biggest industrial hub in the whole of Latin America. German companies in Brazil produce around an eighth of the country’s industrial GDP and employ some 250,000 people. Germany doesn’t only export goods and services, however. Our investment in Brazil also translates into social and ecological standards. What our companies look for there is not quick profits but genuine partnerships. That’s the reason German business enjoys such a reputation around the world – and explains of course why the prospects for German business in Brazil are so fantastic. Brazil is keen to do business with German companies, including small and medium-sized companies. To develop its infrastructure and in many other areas, too, Brazil has a considerable need for the kind of products and technologies in which Germany excels.
Next year the Germany Year in Brazil is due to take place. What exactly is being planned for this?
The aim is to communicate a comprehensive, up to date and authentic image of Germany. In this way we hope to stimulate even greater interest in Germany among the Brazilian public. The motto of the whole event – “when ideas come together” – is an apt choice, I think. What we want is to foster even greater interchange and trust between Germans and Brazilians. Germany Year in Brazil projects will be presented at various business forums and companies invited to participate. But this Germany Year in Brazil isn’t just about business cooperation, it’s about the whole spectrum of our relations. The events will take place all over the country and have a wide focus, varying from culture, education, politics and society to research, technology and lifestyle. And of course sport as well! Both nations are crazy about sport. With the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, we Germans will have plenty of opportunity over the years ahead to get to know Brazil better.
How do you see Brazil’s role in the Rio+20 process, the push for global sustainable development?
In the 21st century I believe we need to consider together how enough food and water for the world’s growing population can be provided without plundering the planet. How can we wean our economies off fossil fuel and limit climate change? In all these areas Brazil is a crucial part of the answer. Just think of its enormous natural resources. In recent years Brazil has recorded impressive economic and social gains. And that means it now also has a greater responsibility to help tackle environmental and developmental problems. Brazil hosted the 2012 Earth Summit in Rio. Although it didn’t produce a breakthrough, the conference did generate momentum for more sustainable models of development. This is something we’ll be taking forward over the years ahead together with key partners such as Brazil.
The questions were put by Hildegard Stausberg, the Welt Group’s diplomatic correspondent.
Reproduced by kind permission of Die Welt.