2016 Asia-Pacific Conference

A double interview with Friedolin Strack, Managing Director of the Asia-Pacific Committee of German Business, and Wolfgang Niedermark, Chief Representative of the German Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.

You are preparing for the Asia-Pacific Conference (APK) of German Business 2016, which will be held in Hong Kong in early November. What is its main focus?

Strack: We want to improve cooperation between companies from Germany and the Asia-Pacific region. We are currently experiencing a period in which opponents of globalisation and advocates of protectionism are gaining ground. We must therefore advocate more strongly for open markets and free trade. The APK provides us with the ideal opportunity to deal with this topic in constructive dialogue with politicians from the two regions. Other topics will be Industrie 4.0, environmental technologies and also questions of foreign policy.

Germany’s leading figures from politics and business will be attending. Are you expecting any notable participants from the Asia-Pacific region?

Niedermark: We are expecting Economics and Finance Ministers from the Asia-Pacific region, for example from Australia, China and Malaysia. The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka has even confirmed he will attend. We are pleased that CEOs from some of Asia’s major companies have confirmed their attendance. The APK provides a valuable platform for them to consolidate contacts with the German business community. Germany is becoming more and more attractive as an investment location. We have put together a package for investors from the Asia-Pacific region to provide them with the fullest information possible about Germany as an investment location.

Mr Niedermark, you represent German business in Hong Kong. How has Hong Kong changed over the years?

Niedermark: Hong Kong is an important hub for German business. Ten or twenty years ago, there were mainly unilateral purchasing and supplier relationships between Germany and Hong Kong. Today German companies have more complex business models. Even with smaller mediumsized companies, we are finding often interwoven structures of subsidiaries, agencies and business associates in Hong Kong, China and other locations in Asia. These manage their supply chains on a bilateral, regional and often global level.

Mr Strack, one topic will be the identification of countries and sectors in which “future growth” is occurring. Are you able to give an idea of who might be “candidates” for this?

Strack: Asia will remain the most important growth market for the German economy in the medium term. Even if China’s growth flattens out at a lower level, it is still huge in absolute terms. Structural reforms are indispensable for growth rates to continue 
at 6 to 7%. India is distinguishing itself with forecasted growth of 7.8% in 2017. And growth in the ASEAN nations is also stable, with 4.8% growth expected in 2017. The industrial nations of Asia, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand continue to be extremely important partners. I regard environmentally friendly production, renewable energies and sustainable urban development as promising industries, particularly in connection with the topic of sustainability. The rapid growth over recent years must now be structured in a more environmentally friendly and liveable manner.

Sigmar Gabriel, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs, has repeatedly called for fair opportunities in market access. Has anything happened in this regard?

Niedermark: Recent months have shown how open Germany is to international investors. We do not see this reciprocated in China, for example, so German companies have to enter into joint ventures with partners dictated by the government. It is simply a question of the much-cited level playing field, equal treatment in other words, not only in China but throughout Asia.

Strack: Free trade agreements are an important instrument for ensuring market access for German companies. As the Asia-Pacific Committee of German Business (APA) we are calling for the expeditious and ambitious conclusion of the negotiations that are already underway and for the swift commencement of new negotiations. Negotiations on the Trans-Pacific-Partnership Agreement were concluded late last year. In it, twelve Pacific Rim countries made a commitment to increased free trade. If the EU does not do more soon, we will no longer be able to have a say on the subject of free trade with Asia.

This year will be the 15th time the Asia-Pacific Conference has been held. How has it developed?

Strack: The APA developed out of the APKs. Until 1992 the conferences were meetings of the German Chambers of Commerce in the region with few participants from Germany. It was only in 1992 in Seoul that the main features of the subsequent APA were “created”. From 1994, the APKs were re-established: bigger and at a higher level. This was guaranteed by the newly established co-chairmanship of the Conference between the German Federal Minister of Economic Affairs and the Chairman of the APA, which endures to this day. In 2010 in Singapore we succeeded for the first time in attracting a broad attendance with government representatives from the region beyond the host nation, on that occasion nine ministers from Asia and the ASEAN Secretary-General. I am hopeful that, from 2016, we will be able to transfer the principle of dialogue to the APK – no longer discussing just Asia. This ensures that the panel will consistently have international and Asian speakers as well.

What significance does the Asia-Pacific region have today for the German economy?

Niedermark: It has huge significance for the German economy. In 2015, the trading volume with the region was 342.5 billion euros. This volume was sustained mainly through Germany’s trade with China. In 2015, the two countries traded goods valued at 163 billion euros. This makes China Germany’s fourth most important trading partner. The trading volume with the other countries in the region is also growing steadily. For example, Germany’s trading volume with the ASEAN countries has tripled in recent years to 57.5 billion euros. ▪

Asia-Pacific Conference from 3 to 5 November 2016 in Hong Kong


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