March 08, 2019

d.jpgVolker Perthes
(Director, German Institute for International Security Affairs, Germany

Thank you very much for inviting me. It was an interesting and useful conference, and I appreciate the work which you and your wonderful colleagues have put into preparing and organizing this conference. What I found particularly interesting is that you didn't only bring scholars together, you brought scholars and politicians together - from partner countries, as well as here from Asian countries, and from Japan of course. That was very useful for us. The topic you chose - the China-U.S. conflict and its fall out, which is being felt in Japan and Europe - was also very topical

It seems to me there is a gradual development in Japan towards playing a larger role which is commensurate with the economic weight of Japan - and the political weight of Japan as a member of the G7 and the G20.

We see some similarities between our two countries. We both have been very reluctant players in the international field. We both have been strong economic players. We have pursued our own economic interests, sometime quite assertively, but we have been reluctant in being geo-political players. The uncertainty of the world that we all feel now, which is compounded by the role the current president Mr. Trump plays, has suddenly pushed us to take more responsibility for our own security, for our own well-being. It has also pushed us to play a greater role in our respective regional environments.

This is where the comparison ends because Germany is the leading member of the European Union. Here in East Asia, there is nothing comparable to the European Union. But what we see happening in Europe is that there is also reliance of medium and small countries on Germany. There is the expectation that we do play a bigger role. I do think some of your partners here in Asia also expect Japan to play a bigger role. Which means in respect to China or to Russia for example, our respective two big neighbors, that we cannot only think about economic opportunities and challenges, but also political and geo-political opportunities and challenges. What particularly reassures me is that Japan and the European Union have found out how many interests they have together, the reason of the conclusion that Japan- E.U. partnership agreement shows that we actually have decided to work together more closely. To be very honest, in the past 10-15 years, observers have not been specialists in Asia. In Germany, in Europe, observers often seem to have forgotten that Japan exists. We spoke about the U.S. We spoke about China. But there wasn't too much talk about Japan. Forgetting that Japan is a stronger economy than the Germany economy. A bigger economy.

But I think reconsideration and rethinking has taken place, and we have rediscovered Japan, in a way. Which is a good thing. Now I think we can say with great pride that, European and Japan together have established the largest free trade zone in the world. Politically, this is probably more important for democracy, and for the respect of citizen's rights. We have established the largest zone in the world of free data flows and data protection, agreeing on each other's standards for protection. I think that is a great achievement which shows that middle powers like Japan and the European states can set standards in the world together.

Let me start by responding to what you defined as the common interests Germany and Japan have in leading forward-looking discussion about where the world is going. I think the situation for European and the Japanese with respect to world order is very simple; we have been benefiting tremendously from the rules-based, liberal, multilateral order. We are both seeing that it will not simply remain as it was. We have an enormous responsibility in maintaining and reforming that order, probably making it more stable or recreating it. In modern language, we would probably say it is upon countries like ours to set up "Multilateralism 2.0". In terms of our security relations, we both have been and still are dependent on the strategic shield of the United States. We would probably both say that the United States is our most important ally. At the same time, we have to realize that the United States under President Trump is no longer the most reliable.

In Europe, that has led to a discussion centering on concepts like the strategic autonomy of Europe of Europe, or European sovereignty. At our institute, we have just compiled a substantive policy paper report on what the strategic autonomy of Europe would really mean. It is not enough for politicians to say we are going for strategic autonomy. We want it, but it has a price. There are lots of policy choices and trade-offs that will come with it, not only in the military and security sphere, but also in the economic and financial sphere. That is the discussion we are now having in Europe. Some of it you are now having in Japan. What does it mean to be more reliant on your own strength if your allies don't value alliances the same way they did in the past. I think this is important subject matter for our bilateral discussions between our two countries. Not only our institutes but our countries, and between Japan and the European Union.

As for next year's conference, I still think we will have to deal with the world order. That issue is not going away. Maybe "Multilateralism 2.0" could be the headline concept for the next conference.

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