-- Translation of advance text --
Mr Deputy Minister-President,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I’m delighted to be with you here today in the Weltsaal of the Federal Foreign Office for the opening of this year’s Asia-Pacific Weeks. For the ninth time, Berlin is offering a dialogue forum for the exchange of knowledge and economic contacts with the Asia-Pacific region.
Our world is undergoing sweeping changes. Many countries are transforming themselves from developing countries into new global players and Asia is at the fore of this development.
Europe accounts for an ever smaller share of the world population. Around 60 per cent of the global population now live in Asia. Some 1.8 billion people there are under the age of 24.
Asian countries already produce almost one third of global output.
Growth rates of more than 6 per cent are forecast for China, Viet Nam, India and Indonesia for the current and the next decade. The Chinese middle class is growing by 15 million people each year.
Each of these figures tells a success story. Each of these success stories offers more opportunities for increased cooperation with Germany and Europe. The rise of new players, let’s remember, doesn’t spell the decline of others. Foreign policy is not a zero-sum game.
We’re looking towards the Asia-Pacific region, but we don’t lump all the countries together. We’re seeking customized and tailor-made partnerships.
India, the world’s largest democracy and an up-and-coming global powerhouse, is Germany’s strategic partner.
Germany and China are linked by a strategic partnership that goes far beyond our dynamic economic relations.
Only ten days ago, the new Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang visited Berlin. Our bilateral relations are intensive, substantial but not without differences of opinion. That’s the very reason we’re conducting a Human Rights Dialogue, within the scope of which we advocate our values and positions.
We are continually intensifying our relations with ASEAN and Asia’s emerging economies.
In the spring, I was able to see for myself the considerable progress which the Philippines has made on the road to prosperity and economic growth.
We are pleased that Germany is Thailand’s most important trading partner in the European Union. Almost 600 German companies are now operating successfully in that country.
We concluded a strategic partnership with Viet Nam back in 2011. As a political pillar and major ASEAN economy, Indonesia is a strategic partner.
Myanmar is in the process of opening up – both politically and economically. This welcome development is partly due to the right course set out by the common EU external affairs policy and the close cooperation with our transatlantic partners. Myanmar can become another Asian success story.
Successful networking relies on openness and Germany’s foreign policy is – first and foremost – an advocate for openness.
The ideal way to forge close economic ties is to advance free trade.
In Europe, we talk a lot about growth but not enough about free trade. The agreement with South Korea is a great success and also a model for other partnership and free trade agreements which are linking Europe ever closer to Asia and its booming economies. We’re still working on an agreement with Japan. Both in Brussels and in the region, we are pushing for further free trade agreements.
In an age of rapidly growing global interconnectedness, we also have to reassess our interests with regard to visa policy.
The spirit of a modern visa policy has to be shaping openness instead of managing division.
A network of links creates confidence and only on the basis of confidence can long‑term and reliable partners be gained.
A host of non‑state players from the business community, the cultural scene, academia and civil society are already cultivating close ties in the Asia-Pacific region. These Asia-Pacific Weeks are one example of this.
In the coming months, we want to advance the establishment of a forum which fosters stronger links among Asia initiatives – along the lines of networked foreign policy. A forum which serves as a bridge between Germany and the Asia-Pacific region and brings our societies even closer together.
The great economic success of the Asia-Pacific region can’t mask existing security challenges.
The festering conflicts in the South and East China Seas or the fragile situation in the north of the Korean peninsula require active and responsible crisis management. We support the efforts of ASEAN and the ASEAN Regional Forum, a key component in the security architecture developing in Asia.
Any country which wants to help shape globalization cannot sidestep Asia.
A globalized world and the rise of major new players pose a twofold challenge. New global issues need to be addressed – and that requires cooperation with more and new partners.
The goal of our foreign policy is to win the support of our Asian friends as active partners in shaping globalization. That will be to our mutual benefit. And it reflects our shared responsibility for the common cause.