Sunday, February 10, 2013

(BN) Germany Focusing on Southeast Asia for Growth, Westerwelle Says

(Bloomberg ) Germany plans to expand its economy through free trade as it seeks more collaboration with Southeast Asian nations, the country's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in Singapore today.

"There is a strategic, political decision in the German government to intensify, strengthen our collaboration or cooperation with these new centers of power in Southeast Asia," Westerwelle told reporters. "German engineering is well known. Our credibility in the area of economy is well known. This is what we can offer."

Germany's economy has slowed as the European debt crisis damps export sales within the euro area, prompting its companies to target faster-growing markets in Asia. Growth in the world's fourth-largest economy slowed to 0.7 percent last year from 3 percent in 2011, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said Jan. 15 in a preliminary estimate.

"We cannot create new growth with debts," Westerwelle said as he met with Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam in the latest stop of his Southeast Asian tour. "This will not work. It will destabilize economies in the world. The best alternative is free trade."

Rising Investment

Southeast Asia's economies have proved resilient to the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing global slowdown, with domestic consumption and rising investment looking set to propel growth over the next few years, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in November.

The Paris-based organization forecast that Indonesian gross domestic product will increase by an average of 6.4 percent from 2013 through 2017, while Thailand will expand by 5.1 percent and the Philippines by 5.5 percent.

Germany accounts for 20 percent of Singapore's trade with the European Union, with more than 1,300 German companies located in the city-state, Shanmugam said.

"We in Singapore are optimistic about Europe," he said. "We believe the current problems will be overcome. It's just a question of time."

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