Schröder in Singapore: Meetings Go Ahead
Schröder in Singapore: No canceling of meetings because of SARS
Chancellor Gerhard Schröder was received with military honors by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong at the beginning of his one-day visit to Singapore on May 13. After a meeting with Prime Minister Goh (also attended by ministerial officials and industry representative Heinrich von Pierer) Schröder stated that Germany and Singapore want to continue to expand their good relations, saying that this will involve a strengthening of trade relations as well as increased exchanges in the areas of education and science.
Asked about the SARS epidemic in Asia Schröder said he felt it was precisely because of the fear and uncertainty this disease has created that it was right to visit his Asian partners now. "We want to show that in the current situation is does not make sense to cancel political meetings because of SARS," Schröder said. This would have been a totally wrong signal to the region. Only the size of the delegation was reduced to minimize risk. Schröder warned against overdramatizing the threat posed by SARS. He said he was confident a country as efficient as Singapore will be able to keep the disease under control, adding that effective public information efforts are helping in this regard.
The Chancellor referred to the countries of Southeast Asia as "very important partners". He emphasized Germany's volume of trade with Asia, noting that it exceeds that with North America. With a population of 500 million Southeast Asia is of enormous economic and political importance for Germany, Schröder noted, adding that for this reason the government supports companies so that the country's export-dependent economy will be able to take advantage of new opportunities. He indicated that Germany's economic activity in Southeast Asia is not to be seen as an alternative to its trade relations with China in an "either-or" scenario.
Free trade agreement with EU planned
Schröder said he discussed in detail with the Prime Minister a planned free trade agreement with the European Union, adding that he had indicated that the Europeans are in the process of negotiating this and that they want to try to make the Doha Round a success. Asked about the possibility of a bilateral free trade agreement with Germany, Schröder said the negotiations being conducted at the EU level did not mean that there could not be bilateral talks, but stressed that: "We want to focus on the Doha Round and thus to remain together as Europeans." Negotiations are currently being conducted in Doha on a free trade agreement with the EU in the WTO framework.
In the afternoon Schröder delivered the Singapore Lecture, an annual lecture given by heads of state and government or other outstanding international figures. In it he referred to Singapore as an impressive mixture of tradition and modernity to which Asians, Americans, and Europeans can all relate.
Welfare state instead of exclusive domination of market forces
Schröder reaffirmed that as Asia's strongest trading partner in the European Union Germany supports the expansion of trade relations with the EU. He noted at the same time that the cultural dimension should not be neglected. Schröder called for a new conception of the welfare state in a changed world, noting that in the process of carrying out necessary reforms Germany wants to preserve the European welfare state as a countermodel to societies dominated exclusively by market forces. He said this was the objective being pursued with his government's Agenda 2010 reform program.
In the early evening he flew on to
Indonesia. The German Air Force Airbus with the Chancellor's
delegation on board landed in Jakarta shortly after 6:00
p.m. local time (Central European Summer Time + 5 hours).
The official program will begin there Wednesday morning.
Among the events on the agenda are the signing of an
investment protection agreement and a visit to the German
school in Jakarta.