Germany Relations with ASEAN: From the Business Partner into the Main Development Partner


Adyuta Banurasmi Balapradhana or Banu is a sophomore year international relations undergraduate student at Universitas Pembangunan Nasional “Veteran” Yogyakarta. He has strong interests in European studies, analysis and comparative public policy, Asia – Europe Relations, and ASEAN studies. Throughout his academic career, He has written his opinion on Medium.com, Pinterpolitik.com, and Geotimes. He also joined several essay competitions which one of them has won third place, the competition was National Essay Competition with The grand theme “Indonesia – Hungary Bilateral Relations” held by The Embassy of Republic of Indonesia in Budapest and Organization of  Indonesia’s Overseas Students Alliance Local Chapter Hungary in 2019. He was a member of the Research and Development Division of International Relations Major Student at His University for 2018 – 2019 term. His hobbies are reading both fictional and non – fictional books and writing essays. Please email banurasmi@gmail.com to contact Banu.   


Indonesia | June 27, 2020 | Student Essay

Germany has a quite long history in relationships with ASEAN member states. Before becoming the main partner of ASEAN Development in 2016, Germany has developed trade and investment partnerships with several ASEAN member states such as Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. Those countries are the main Germany trade and investment partners due to vast numbers of Germany’s investment and export-import volume. Germany also conducted several economic and social development projects with its partners and local government in Southeast Asia through Germany Development Cooperation Agency, GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH). This makes the relationship between Germany and several member states strengthened in social and economic development before established the relationship into the regional level with ASEAN as the Inter-Governmental Organization of Southeast Asian Nations to develop relations further than Germany’s main partners in the region.

Germany already enjoyed good trade and investment relations with the key partner countries in Southeast Asia such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Before received development partner status on a regional level with ASEAN in 2016, those countries are the main export destinations of Germany with the total value was US$ 24 Billion in 2016. Singapore and Malaysia were the largest markets for Germany’s export due to shares of a vast number of its value and the huge market for commodities such as integrated circuits, automobiles, and medical equipment. On the other hand, The value of Germany’s imports from those countries was US$ 33,5 Billion in 2016. Main Germany’s import commodities from ASEAN were garment and footwear products. The higher volume rates of imports from those countries made Germany’s balance of trade deficit.

In investments, Germany has several private companies that invested in high technology manufacturing such as BMW, Airbus, Siemens, ThyssenKrupp, and Daimler. They have their own offices and production facilities located in Indonesia. Although Indonesia hosted a diversity of German companies’ production facilities, Thailand still the main host of German companies specified production facilities, such as car manufacturing facilities. Thailand hosted the biggest car production facilities for German companies such as Volkswagen and Daimler in the region. Then, Singapore is a hub for German companies to set up regional headquarters such as Bosch, Carl Zeiss, BMW, and DHL. Malaysia hosts the business operations of Siemens, BMW, Audi, and MAN. From here, we can conclude that Germany has a strong presence in South East Asia on investment in the high technology and machinery industries.

Germany not only a business partner for Southeast Asia but also, a development partner. Through Germany Development Cooperation Agency, GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH),  PTB (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt), and  KfW (Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau), and funded by Federal Foreign Office and Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation, Germany implemented various development projects in the areas of agriculture, forestry, port development, energy efficiency, infrastructure quality, competition policy, and law. The total contributions of Germany for these various development projects approximately US$ 176 million for the past decade per July 2019. 

After Germany conferred the status as a development partner on July 24th, 2016 at 49th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting (AMM) and institutionalized through First ASEAN – Germany Development Partnership Committee (AG – DPC) on January 23th, 2017. The establishment of AG – DPC makes cooperation between Germany and the ASEAN expanded further not only the with the “natural partners” in the region which mostly Germany already maintained economic and development cooperation with them, but also expanded into the regional level of development which makes all of ASEAN member states benefited with Germany’s cooperation. The scope of areas of cooperation also extended not only in economic and development but also in political-security and socio-cultural cooperation.

The example of political – security cooperation between two parties such as Germany’s support to the ASEAN integration process through AIPA (ASEAN Interparliamentary Assembly) with the Capacity Development of AIPA to establish effective and sustainable organizational and coordination mechanisms. In the socio-cultural cooperation, Germany supported ACB (ASEAN Centre of Biodiversity) to advises ASEAN member states to develop regional biodiversity and climate change policies then also arranged measures to conserve biodiversity and ecological systems through supported the Thai Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) for the implementation of the ECO-BEST project on the issue of payment for environmental services in Thailand and Laos. Not only that, but Germany also supported disaster management and humanitarian assistance activities conducted by Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre), and ASEAN Regional Disaster Emergency Response Simulation Exercises (ARDEX).

In conclusion, before becoming the main partner of ASEAN Development in 2016, Germany has developed trade and investment partnerships with several ASEAN member states such as Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. This makes the relationship between Germany and several member states strengthened in social and economic development before established the relationship into the regional level with ASEAN as the Inter-Governmental Organization of Southeast Asian Nations to develop relations further than Germany’s main partners in the region. The establishment of AG – DPC makes cooperation between Germany and the ASEAN expanded further not only the with the “natural partners” in the region which mostly Germany already maintained economic and development cooperation with them, but also expanded into the regional level of development which makes all of ASEAN member states benefited with Germany’s cooperation. On the other hand, the scope of areas of cooperation also extended to political and social-cultural aspects has made Germany crucial for the development of ASEAN.


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