Why does Germany need a strategy on the Indo-Pacific Region?
More than half the world’s population lives in countries around the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. In recent decades, countries such as Viet Nam, China and India have seen rapid economic growth: the region now accounts for almost 40% of global GDP. With the rise of Asia, the region is also gaining in economic and political importance. At the same time, the strategic competition for influence in the region is increasing. The Indo-Pacific region is becoming the key to shaping the international order in the 21st century.
Shifting geopolitical power structures in the Indo-Pacific also have direct impacts on Germany: the economies of the European and Indo-Pacific regions are closely connected through global supply chains. Major trading routes pass through the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea and the Pacific. If conflicts in the region adversely affect security and stability there, this has repercussions for Germany, too.
That is why the German Government wants to expand cooperation with the countries of the Indo-Pacific region. Following the cabinet’s adoption of the policy guidelines, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas commented:
Our prosperity and our geopolitical influence in the coming decades will depend on how we work together with the countries of the Indo-Pacific region. That, more than anywhere else, is where the shape of the international rules-based order of tomorrow will be decided. We want to help shape that order – so that it is based on rules and international cooperation, not on the law of the strong.
Aims of the Guidelines
In elaborating this strategy, Germany is making an active contribution to shaping the international order in the Indo-Pacific. The COVID-19 pandemic and its repercussions have demonstrated once again that we are facing global challenges that can only be overcome by countries working together. One important aim is therefore to strengthen structures of international cooperation – in particular the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), with which Germany would like to cooperate more closely in future.
The Indo-Pacific is not clearly delineated in geographical terms and is defined variously by different actors. The Federal Government considers the Indo-Pacific to be the entire region characterised by the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.
One of the biggest challenges facing the world – but especially the Indo-Pacific region – is the fight against climate change and marine pollution. The German Government wants to work with the countries of the Indo-Pacific region to find solutions here.
There are many fields in which Germany wants to work more intensively with the countries of the region, be it to strengthen the rule of law and human rights or to enhance exchange in the cultural, educational and scientific spheres. The security-policy sector plays a special role in this context.
Economic relations, too, are to be expanded, for example through the conclusion of EU free trade agreements with additional countries in the Indo-Pacific. The aim must also be to avoid unilateral dependencies by diversifying partnerships. Other topics include the digital transformation, connectivity and visionary technologies of the future – issues which are crucial for Germany’s global competitiveness. This also includes a social discourse about free access to information and protection against misinformation.
With these policy guidelines, the German Government is aiming not least to promote a European Indo-Pacific strategy. For that reason, the strategy takes up European policy approaches and offers points of departure for closer cooperation, also at EU level.