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BERLIN: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the European Union should expand its cooperation with Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN), saying it was crucial to deepen ties in the face of the war in Ukraine, addressing a meeting of business leaders in Singapore on Monday.

He said he hopes to see quick progress in the EU’s trade negotiations with Australia, India and Indonesia and remains open to new agreements beyond that.

“Deepening cooperation is crucial, because we all feel that the geopolitical ground beneath our feet is shifting,” Scholz, who visited Vietnam on Sunday and after his stop in Singapore will travel on to the G20 leaders’ summit in Indonesia, said.

His trip, one week after a visit to China, comes within the context of Germany’s attempts to diversify trade in Asia, which has some of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Germany wants to reduce its economic reliance on its top trade partner China, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and reduction in energy supplies to Europe highlighted the risks of relying on one state.

Germany’s Scholz arrives in China to boost economic ties

Scholz said that reducing risky, one-sided dependencies for certain raw materials or critical technologies would play an important role in Germany’s national security strategy but added that de-coupling was not the answer.

“A world with new or resurrected trade barriers and de-integrated economies will not be a better place,” he said according to a prepared speech text.

Berlin also wants to offer other nations an alternative to Chinese investment, to prevent Beijing gaining more political leverage, and show greater engagement in the Indo Pacific amid worries about its territorial ambitions.

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