Germany will seek to deepen its energy and trade ties with Vietnam, the country’s Foreign Minister Olaf Scholz said during a visit to the country on Sunday, the first leg of his three-country tour of Southeast Asia.
On Scholz’s trip to Vietnam, which preceded a stop in Singapore and his attendance at this week’s G20 leaders’ summit in Indonesia, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh received him with military honors before meeting with Nguyen Phu Trong, head of the Communist Party of Vietnam. Party (VCP).
Perhaps inevitably, the Russia-Ukraine war featured in the discussions, with Scholz pressing his Vietnamese hosts to take a “clear position” on the conflict, Deutsche Welle reported. “This is about the Russian war of aggression being a violation of international law with a dangerous precedent. Small countries can no longer be safe from the behavior of their bigger and more powerful neighbors,” the German chancellor said at a joint press conference with Chinh.
But the fact that Scholz was accompanied to Hanoi by a 12-member business delegation indicates to what extent the main focus of the trip was the economy.
At a joint press conference with Chinh, Scholz said that Berlin hoped to develop deeper trade relations with Hanoi and would support the country’s transition to a greener economy. He also mentioned that Germany would help expand Hanoi’s offer. stalled subway system. in a tweet yesterdayScholz wrote that his country sought to “expand our sales markets, sources of raw materials, and production sites” to make it “more independent of individual states.”
The trip reflected both Vietnam’s increasingly prominent place in global supply chains and the newfound interest many German companies have in expanding their presence beyond China amid rising tensions between Beijing and the West.
Indeed, Scholz’s trip, the first to Vietnam by a German leader in more than a decade, came on the heels of his visit to China last week, the first by a Western leader since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 19. After the war in Ukraine revealed the folly of her predecessor, Angela Merkel’s uncomplicated policy toward Russian energy imports, the trip sparked criticism from many Western observers that economic interests were preventing Berlin from seeing the threat that represented Xi Jinping’s China.
political quoted critics saying that Scholz is “making exactly the same mistakes of over-reliance on China that Berlin previously made on Russia.” For his part, the Foreign Minister said germany I would seek to follow a middle path. In a recent opinion piece, he argued that “new centers of power are emerging in a multipolar world, and we aim to establish and expand partnerships with all of them.”
He said that Berlin had “no interest in seeing new blocs emerge in the world” and that China’s growing power and influence “does not justify calls by some to isolate China, or the pursuit of Chinese hegemonic dominance, or even a world sino-centric. organize.”
Given this background, the focus on Vietnam makes sense, both for the German government and for German industry. Vietnam is from Germany most important trading partner in Southeast Asia, and according to ReutersSome 500 German companies now operate in the country, including 80 that have set up manufacturing plants there. At the same time, Germany is that of Vietnam. the second longest trading partner among the member states of the European Union after the Netherlands.
The president of the German chamber of commerce in Vietnam, Marko Walde, told Reuters that an increasing number of German companies are seeking to diversify some of their activities outside of China. More than 90 percent of companies planning such a move look to Southeast Asia as their preferred option, with Vietnam and Thailand among the top choices in the region.
No doubt, as in its relations with Beijing, Berlin will be forced to defuse the obvious tensions between its commercial interests and its declared commitment to human rights principles. In addition to the generally repressive political climate, in which dozens of Vietnamese political dissidents and activists have been arrested in recent years, the brazen kidnapping of Trinh Xuan Thanha Vietnamese state-owned company official on the run from a Berlin park in 2017, sparked a chill in relations between Vietnam and Germany.
For Vietnam, the increased attention from Germany has some downsides. Over the past five years, the country’s economy has benefited as Western companies have sought to reduce their economic dependence on China-centric supply chains, a process that will only continue given the current cooling between Xi’s China and China. West. This offers another reminder that while Vietnam’s overwhelming geographic, political, and economic proximity to China carries great risks, the rewards can also be considerable.