Germany Joins the ‘Indo-Pacific’ Club

Context:

Germany has announced a set of Indo-Pacific policy guidelines, becoming the second European nation after France to formally adopt a strategy for the Indo-Pacific region.

  • On July 1, Germany assumed the EU Council’s six-monthly rotating presidency, putting it in a position to shape the bloc’s approach to the Indo-Pacific throughout the remainder of its term.

Analysis

  • The strategy is designed to allow Germany to make “an active contribution to shaping the international order in the Indo-Pacific.”
  • On one level, the strategy is a simple concession to economic and geopolitical reality.
  • Asia has long been Germany’s largest export market outside of Europe itself, and its economy remains heavily reliant on the global supply chains and open sea lanes that speed German-made cars and other goods to fast-growing Asian markets.
  • It recognizes that the growing strategic uncertainty in the Indo-Pacific—due both to China’s increasing assertiveness in the region and the American push back that this has engendered—is likely to have a direct impact on Germany’s future prosperity and security.
  • Conversely, improved partnerships with other nations in the Indo-Pacific will undoubtedly help Germany handle many of the global challenges posed by an increasingly brash and ambitious China.
  • At the same time, Germany’s engagement with the Indo-Pacific is likely to differ considerably from the go-it-alone posture of the United States under President Donald Trump, which has also put the Indo-Pacific at the centre of its national security strategy.
  • While the German guidelines hold out diversification of economic and trade links away from China, preexisting trade flows militate against any significant economic decoupling.
  • Moreover, an important part of its approach to the region will be “to strengthen structures of international cooperation”—exactly the sort of multilateral mechanisms that the Trump administration disdains.
  • For example, the German announcement singled out the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a special focus of engagement.
  • Indeed, one could read Berlin’s opposition to “the law of the strong” as a veiled declaration of independence from Washington’s “America First” unilateralism.

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