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  November - December 2009


Tribute to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand,
the world’s longest reigning monarch. Blessed are all Thais to have a King of sincerity, compassion and plain common sense. For all those who respect His Majesty for his integrity, it was an immense relief and joy to learn that the great monarch is convalescing from his recent illness. In this humble tribute, commemorating His Majesty’s 82nd Birthday, AseanAffairs presents a snapshot of His Majesty’s life and works.

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Human Rights Remain a Key Concern


Dr. Wolfgang Gerhardt
Chairman of The Friedrich-Naumann
Foundation, Germany

Q:  The FDP having stronger representation in the new German coalition government is seen as a boost for German businesses. What should German businesses based in Asia and Southeast Asia expect from the new government?

A:  German businesses in Asia can expect a government that tries to lighten the load of regulations and of complex taxation rules. It will have an ally to fight for an open world trading system based on the WTO. Its policy on development aid will encourage market-based solutions, see business as an important partner in the development process whose advice and cooperation will be sought to a greater degree.

Q:  Would there be a significant change in Germany’s foreign policy towards Asia and Southeast Asia now assuming that FDP will take control of the foreign ministry?

A:  Foreign Policy will probably not change drastically. In Germany, as in most countries, foreign policy is based on a broad consensus, while differences are more a matter of different of emphasis. Having said that, during the last few years Asean has received a bit less attention than it deserves. We are watching with great interest how Asean will evolve with its new charter and a secretariat that is run by Surin Pitsuwan, someone with real political standing in the region. The success of the democratisation process in the Asean region has a wider importance that is often overlooked. I believe the new government will pay more attention to this.

Q:  How would you describe the current EU-Asean relationship? What role does Germany, the biggest economy in the EU, play in strengthening the ties?

A:  In the last two decades, Asean has realised that the Asian giants China and India are overshadowing the Asean member countries to an increasing degree. Political attention and commercial investment gets diverted there. Let me be candid: some of this attention shift is a product of hype and herd behaviour. Asean has not done badly economically, and its members still have substantial strengths, but they find it harder to catch people’s attention. Asean has responded by strengthening the organisations, as the individual countries cannot hope to compete for attention with the two Asian giants, but as a group they carry a potentially significant clout. Germany welcomes this – our experience in Europe has shown that regional integration can be economically beneficial and politically stabilising, and there are many signs that Asean is reaping similar benefits: most people don’t realise how many potential conflict areas there are in Asean, and one reason is that Asean has helped to contain these potential conflicts. We tend to give too little credit for work that prevents conflicts, because a crisis that hasn’t happened does not register in our consciousness.

Q:  You may have noticed that the free trade talks between the EU and Asean has been inconclusive. One of the key contending issues has been EU’s insistence on Asean’s commitment to human rights. What is Germany’s perspective?    .... Read the Complete Article Subscribe to ASEANAFFAIRS Magazine

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