Amid Supply Chain Tension, Germany Aims to Strengthen Ties with Japan
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrived in Japan with six of his ministers on Saturday to strengthen economic ties with Tokyo amid global supply chain tensions. Scholz and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida initiated their first “government consultation” involving multiple cabinet members from both countries to discuss ways to secure economic security.
Although Germany holds consultations with several countries, including France and China, German officials say that holding its first consultation with Japan is of high political and symbolic importance. Kishida spoke of the “close and strong relations between our countries that is at a level not reached before,” at the opening of the meeting, while Scholz said he looked forward to discussing issues such as global security.
A German government official said that given Japan’s passing of a bill on economic security, Berlin hopes to learn about its raw material strategy and follow Tokyo’s lead on how to cut dependency on imports during the visit. Last year, Japan’s parliament passed an economic security bill aimed at guarding technology and reinforcing critical supply chains primarily focused on China.
Trade between Germany and China increased to a record level last year, making the Asian country Germany’s most important trading partner for the seventh year in a row despite political warnings in Berlin about excessive dependence. Goods worth around 298 billion euros were traded between the two countries in 2022, up around 21% from the previous year, according to data from the German statistics office.
With volumes reaching about 46 billion euros in 2022, Japan is Germany’s second largest trading partner in Asia behind China. “As democracies and as highly industrialized, export-oriented economies, Japan and Germany face similar challenges in shaping the digital and ecological transformation and strengthening the resilience of their economy in difficult geopolitical times,” said Franziska Brantner, state secretary in Germany’s economy ministry.
Worried about Germany’s dependence, the centre-left government is taking a tougher line towards Beijing than its centre-right predecessor and exploring ways to wean itself off China’s economy.