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Asia Pivots to Germany

After dealing with Donald Trump, Angela Merkel hosts India and China in the same week.

By , a global affairs journalist and the author of The Influence of Soros and Bad Jews.
merkel modi
merkel modi

Is German Chancellor Angela Merkel pivoting to Asia, or is Asia pivoting to Merkel’s Germany?

On Monday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off his whirlwind world tour (featuring four countries in six days) in Germany, where he met with the chancellor at Merkel’s official country retreat and had what Modi described as a “good interaction.”

Their informal meeting was followed by a private dinner and two days of formal engagements featuring meetings with business leaders from both countries. Modi told German media outlet Handelsblatt that he is keen to work with Germany on his Make in India program to revitalize Indian manufacturing; Germany is one of the world’s leading makers of machine tools, and helped retool China’s factories in recent decades.

Is German Chancellor Angela Merkel pivoting to Asia, or is Asia pivoting to Merkel’s Germany?

On Monday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off his whirlwind world tour (featuring four countries in six days) in Germany, where he met with the chancellor at Merkel’s official country retreat and had what Modi described as a “good interaction.”

Their informal meeting was followed by a private dinner and two days of formal engagements featuring meetings with business leaders from both countries. Modi told German media outlet Handelsblatt that he is keen to work with Germany on his Make in India program to revitalize Indian manufacturing; Germany is one of the world’s leading makers of machine tools, and helped retool China’s factories in recent decades.

Later in the week, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will travel to Berlin to meet Merkel just ahead of Friday’s EU-China summit meant “to advance on the strategic partnership” between the two by discussing trade, migration, climate change, foreign policy, and security.

All of this, Politico Europe notes, is a clear demonstration by Merkel to certain traditional partners — namely, the United States and United Kingdom — that she can do business without them. After all, while Trump undermines the EU, rails against German trade policy, and mulls pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, Modi at least pays lip service to free trade and combatting climate change — and China at least says that it is, too. (In reality, both big Asian markets have all sorts of formal and informal restrictions that crimp access for international firms.)

But Merkel is not the only one making a demonstration. As America’s “pivot to Asia” wanes under Trump, countries in the region are looking elsewhere — namely, to the EU and Germany — for a reliable global partner. China is eager to build business ties in Europe, the endpoint of its “One Belt, One Road” plan to link all of Eurasia. And India, which has been pivoting to the east in its own bid to boost trade ties with Southeast Asia, doesn’t want to be left out as Europe finds new dance partners.

“We always want that the European Union should be stronger, should be more active. Through Chancellor Merkel, we will be able to work with the European Union. It’s very easy for us,” Modi said on Tuesday.

He also said that India is committed to recognizing and fighting climate change, and added that Germany is an example for India, demonstrating that, for all of the ink spilled on America’s Asia strategy, it isn’t only western countries that can realize it’s time to pivot.

Photo credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is a global affairs journalist and the author of The Influence of Soros and Bad Jews. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

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