Germany’s President Aims to Diversify Ties During Southeast Asia Trip

What German interests have prompted Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s visits to Cambodia and Malaysia, and what can the two countries expect?

At the end of January, the office of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced that he would make an official visit to Cambodia and Malaysia in mid-February, the first visit by a German head of state to Cambodia and the first by a German president to Malaysia since 1986. The official purpose of the trip, which will run from February 13 to 19, is intended to underline Germany’s foreign policy goal of diversifying its political and economic relations.

This goal is consistent with the political turning of times, or Zeitenwende, announced by Chancellor Olaf Scholz after the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year. Since Germany is looking for new partners, it should be considered what interests the country is pursuing in Cambodia and Malaysia based on the already existing relations and what the potential for the two Southeast Asian countries might be, considering Steinmeier will be followed by a business delegation.

German relations with Cambodia are based primarily on development cooperation, such as German support for reconciliation and demining projects. In recent years, Cambodian exports to Germany, which consist mainly of textiles and shoes, have increased many times over, yet the trading volume is small in the grand scheme of things. In addition, many German enterprises have settled in the Kingdom. However, economic relations between the two countries experienced a severe setback in 2020 when Cambodia lost a portion of its duty-free access to the European single market under the Everything But Arms (EBA) initiative due to human rights concerns.

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