IN THE face of economic and geopolitical headwinds, Germany and Singapore can strengthen their collaboration for growth, in areas such as sustainability, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong on Monday (Nov 14).
Such collaboration can take place not just bilaterally, but between the European Union (EU) and Asean, DPM Wong and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz both said at the 17th Asia-Pacific Conference of German Business (APK).
At the event held in Singapore this year, DPM Wong said that Germany and Singapore are both export-oriented economies that have "long thrived on the principles of free trade and the rules-based international order".
The two countries have a long-standing relationship built on shared strategic perspectives and mutual trust, which "can help to anchor and bring our two regions - the EU and Asean - closer together", he added.
Scholz similarly said that Germany is "keen on strengthening economic ties" in the Asia-Pacific region, even as China remains an important business trading partner. The best way to keep more resilient supply chains is to diversify, he said. "De-globalisation is not an option for any of us."
APK 2022 is the second time that Singapore has hosted the conference - the first was in 2010. DPM Wong noted "considerable optimism" then, recalling the common objective to "take advantage of globalisation and trade to jump-start growth, and work to deepen economic ties with one another" in the wake of the global financial crisis.
In today's conference, circumstances are different as "a geopolitical rivalry, contestation, and the erosion of strategic trust... are fast reshaping the world around us" and Asia faces "a more complicated and unpredictable future".
But while the state of the US-China relationship is key to peace and stability, "it does not mean that the rest of us in the world are simply passive bystanders", said DPM Wong.
As the world moves towards being multi-polar, with a wide diversity of overlapping interests, Asean wants to be a "neutral core" around which to build a stronger framework of cooperation for the region, he added.
This means keeping the region open, inclusive and connected to the world, welcoming major partners such as the EU, Japan, South Korea or India to build stakes and create "a web of interdependencies" and fostering conditions for major powers to have overlapping circles of friends, he said.
"That is why we are very happy that the EU-Asean relationship was upgraded to a strategic partnership in 2020. We look forward to exploring stronger cooperation between our two regions in security, economic and socio-cultural fields."
Sustainability was one of the areas that DPM Wong raised for possible collaboration. Green businesses in Asean are set to expand further in the coming years, and more German companies are moving into the area of sustainability, he said.
Germany is Singapore's largest trading partner in the EU, he added, noting that its presence in Singapore has grown substantially over the years to over 2,100 companies now, including leading global firms such as Siemens and DHL.
DPM Wong noted that Singapore and Germany already collaborate in many areas, including business, research and development, skills development and education.
"We will continue to explore collaboration in new areas, to chart a shared future based on sustainability, innovation and resilience... and in doing so, contribute to stability and prosperity in the region."