Asia-Pacific being one of the fastest growing regions in the world makes exchange with the region’s countries more important than ever for German economy. This year’s Asia-Pacific Conference of German Business (APK) is focusing on global trade regimes, on expansion of infrastructure in Asia as well as on stronger cooperation concerning future technologies.
“German business and its partners in both the Asia-Pacific region as well as in the European Union are encouraging open markets and a high level of transparency in trade, investments and in public procurement. This is why we are supporting the dialogue between business, politics, civil society and science. APA wants to contribute to the community of states finding a consensus on a free world trade order. This benefits companies as well as employees and consumers.” Those were the words of Hubert Lienhard, Chairman of the Asia-Pacific Board (APA), at the opening ceremony of the APK in Jakarta. More than 900 participants were taking part in the conference in Indonesia’s capital.
“Relationships between Germany and the countries of the Asia-Pacific region have been strong for a long time. Our common answer to global challenges can only be a common defence of an open, free and fair global trade. This is essential for a more intense economic cooperation in the interest of all parties involved“, emphasized Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier.
The conference is focusing on future topics such as the development of the global trade regime, industry 4.0, mobility, artificial intelligence, urbanization as well as economic and security challenges in the region. APK is organized by APA, the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy and the German Chambers of Commerce Abroad in the Asia-Pacific region.
While it is necessary to push for free trade, Germany and Asia-Pacific need political surroundings supporting successful, future-oriented companies, Lienhard noted: “In the Asia-Pacific region, innovation is proceeding with an enormous speed, especially in China. Germany and Europe have to catch up, so they are able to keep up in the race for tomorrow’s technologies. We desperately need modern digital infrastructures and improved conditions for research and development within the EU. This is the only way we can establish ourselves as attractive cooperation partners for the Asian-Pacific countries. There is a lot to learn when cooperating. For example, we should find common solutions to soften the tension between the need for big data, national security interests and data security for companies and consumers.”
Lienhard also emphasized cooperation concerning Asia’s and Europe’s physical connectivity, focusing on the projects’ quality: “It is also essential to channel our powers when looking at improving infrastructure in Asia. For many years, it was our European strategy to connect Eastern Europe and Central Asia to our networks – the Eurasian connectivity. This has to be complemented by participation in Asian infrastructure initiatives which should be both financially and ecologically sustainable for the countries involved.”
For German companies, Asia-Pacific is the most important region for trade outside Europe. 17 percent of German exports during the first half of 2018 went to this region. Over the last decade, German exports to this region have been growing by an average of 7.4 per cent per annum, whilst German exports in general only grew by 2.9 per cent over all. The region will also remain a top destination for German direct investment. In 2016, German direct investments in Asia-Pacific ran up to an overall portfolio of 173 billion Euros. However, it is also worth looking at investments running in the opposite direction. In 2017 alone, more than 400 foreign direct investments in Germany came from Asia-Pacific, i.e. more than 20 percent. More than 8,000 Asian companies are employing more than 300,000 people in Germany. Further improvements in market access conditions, especially in some Asian countries, would improve exchange in both directions.
„Considering recent protectionist tendencies, it is more important than ever to cooperate with the remaining like-minded countries in the region to establish a level playing field. Open markets and a free flow of goods, services and information are the most powerful means in the fight against poverty and for creating jobs all over the world. EU trade agreements with the countries of the Asia-Pacific region are securing extensive social and ecologic standards. The EU trade strategy is aiming at working against economic nationalism and virulent populism, both of them threatening global stability, prosperity and peace”, Lienhard emphasized.