Let There Be an EU-Asean FTA
Interview with Dr. Dieter Zetsche, CEO Daimler AG
Dr. Dieter Zetsche has been a member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG since December 16, 1998, and Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG since January 1, 2006. He is also Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars Division which includes passenger cars of the brands Mercedes-Benz, Maybach and smart as well as Mercedes-Benz AMG and Mercedes-Benz McLaren.
A: We speak out all over the world in favour of free trade without tariff barriers. For this reason, we very much welcome the efforts of the Asean group of nations to attain an integrated free market as of the year 2015. A single market of approximately half a billion inhabitants is attractive for any automotive company. Daimler is represented in most of the Asean countries today. For example, we have Mercedes-Benz assembly plants in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. We utilise the many opportunities offered by this market with its dynamic growth also for our Japanese commercial vehicles subsidiary, FUSO.
Q: What is the impact of global financial crisis on your business operations worldwide, and in Southeast Asia?
A: The financial and economic crisis has had a severe impact on the entire manufacturing sector and thus also on automobile manufacturers worldwide; Southeast Asia is no exception. But we have interpreted this crisis as an opportunity and initiated the necessary changes at an early stage. Innovative power has always been the automotive industry’s lifeblood. In all areas, we have intensified our efficiency programs while, at the same time, making substantial investments in research and development. We are therefore confident that we will emerge from this global economic and financial crisis stronger than before.
Q: Could Southeast Asia be a manufacturing base for Daimler AG once the EU and Asean (the Association of Southeast Asia Nations) have signed the free trade agreement?
A: As already mentioned, we have been advocates of free world trade for many years. But we have observed that particularly in Asia where countries have concluded more and more bilateral trade agreements, putting European manufacturers in a disadvantageous economic position. We are therefore in favour of negotiations leading to an EU-Asean free trade agreement. But first of all, both sides have to clarify some fundamental political questions. Even without such an agreement, we are already represented in the Asean countries with manufacturing activities (see above), and we are monitoring further developments carefully.
Q: How would you rate Asean as an investment destination in comparison with India and China?
A: Asean as a location for investment can hardly be compared with India or China. On the one hand, there are very differing economic, political and social structures in the individual Asean member states; on the other hand, China and India are single markets each with more than twice as many inhabitants as the whole of Asean. But the fact that Asean as a whole is very attractive to investors can already be seen from the major involvement of German industry in the APA Conference in Singapore from May the 13th to 15th next year in which we will also participate.
Q: What can the Federal government of Germany and its counterparts in Asean do to attract more German investment into Asean? ....