The history of the Second World War, the victims and the experience of reconstruction over the last 70 years is something that Germany and Japan share, said Chancellor Angela Merkel in a keynote speech on German-Japanese relations and other foreign policy issues at an event hosted by the Japanese daily newspaper "Asahi Shimbun" and the Berlin-based German-Japanese Centre.
"As prospering democracies our states and societies are shaped by the separation of powers, the rule of law and the principles of the social market economy," said Angela Merkel. Today, Germany and Japan are "partners in shouldering global responsibility to ensure a liberal world order based on standards, with free and open states and societies".
Angela Merkel was visiting Japan to prepare for the G7 summit to be held on 8 and 9 June in Schloss Elmau. Germany holds the G7 Presidency this year, and will hand over to Japan for 2016.
Enforcing international law is in the common interests of Japan and Germany, continued the Chancellor. This applies, for instance to the unlawful Russian annexation of Crimea. It equally applies to the situation in the East and South China Sea, where security is being jeopardised by maritime territorial disputes. "These shipping routes connect Europe with this part of the world. Ensuring that they are safe is thus also a matter that affects us in Europe."
It is very important to overcome differences of this sort through dialogue on the basis of international law, declared Angela Merkel. "Smaller and larger partners alike must be involved in multilateral processes, and internationally recognised law must be taken as the basis for any agreements."
Conflicts, in which the willingness to engage in dialogue in stretched to the limit because fundamental values and human rights are violated, "strengthen our conviction that we must stand up united and determinedly for liberty and openness," declared the Chancellor. In this, Germany and Japan are cooperating closely. Angela Merkel pointed to the international terrorism perpetrated by organisations such as IS and Boko Haram and to the barbaric murder of Japanese hostages held by the Islamic State, as well as to the attack on staff of the satirical magazine "Charlie Hebdo".
In her speech the Chancellor also looked at the focuses of Germany’s G7 Presidency. Climate change mitigation is one important point. In December the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris will decide whether or not an ambitious and binding climate agreement can come into effect in 2020. "That is why, along with our G7 partners, we aim to prepare initiatives that demonstrate that the G7 states are willing to take on a leading role in fostering low-carbon development. We aim to demonstrate that this does not mean renouncing prosperity."
Closely linked to climate change mitigation is the question of a sustainable energy supply. "It is above all about enhancing energy efficiency and thus reducing energy costs," said Angela Merkel. Another important focus of Germany’s G7 Presidency is health. What lessons can the international community learn from the Ebola epidemic, for instance?
With a view to bilateral relations, Angela Merkel underlined the long-standing traditions that have grown over time. She pointed to many common efforts in the international context. "In business and in science and research, in art and in culture – we do not have such an intensive dialogue with any other country in Asia," she stressed. More than 60 town twinning arrangements, more than 110 German-Japanese societies and almost 600 university twinning arrangements impressively illustrate these contacts.
Today there is much that the two countries can learn from one another and with one another, she said. It is, for instance, important to dismantle obstacles to trade, investment and joint investment. That is why, said Angela Merkel, the German government is endeavouring to have the free trade agreement between Japan and the European Union finally negotiated and signed as swiftly as possible. "In our experience two-way trade has always benefitted from arrangements of this sort. Trade has increased and more jobs have been created," she stressed.
During a visit to a joint German-Japanese company in the city of Kawasaki on Tuesday, Angela Merkel reaffirmed her support for the free trade agreement. She pointed out that, for instance, truck manufacturers are required to undergo two different complex standards testing procedures, one in the EU and one in Japan, although the actual differences in the underlying standards are absolutely minimal. "That is one of the examples of why free trade agreements that also cover what are known as non-tariff trade barriers, can be extremely successful; there are no substantial differences in environmental quality."
Innovative capabilities and economic success, Angela Merkel continued, build on education, science and research. "It is thus only logical that our two countries engage in a lively dialogue in these fields too." The dialogue is already intensive, but she said, "There is always scope to improve even what is already good. In the fields of renewable energies, maritime sciences and geosciences, and in environmental research, there are many options for further stepping up cooperation."
The Chancellor pointed to the study and research opportunities available in Germany. "I would be delighted to see more students and scientists from Japan interested in a stay in Germany." Japanese students and Japanese scientists are very welcome in Germany, she said.
At the joint press conference with Prime Minster Shinzo Abe on Monday evening, Chancellor Angela Merkel was asked about the differences in the way Europe and East Asia have come to terms with their recent history. In this context she pointed out that, "National socialism and the Holocaust are a terrible burden of guilt that we bear. Coming to terms with our own past was thus an essential factor in making reconciliation possible. Of course reconciliation always needs two sides. In our case, France, for instance, was willing to extend a hand of friendship to Germany after the Second World War. Basically the European Union we have today is the product of this reconciliation."
At the same time Angela Merkel stressed that she could speak only for Germany, and added, "I have not come to Japan to give Japan pointers on what to do." She is certain that every country must find its own way of dealing with the past.
The Chancellor visited Japan on 9 and 10 March. She discussed the focuses of the G7 summit and bilateral and regional issues with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Angela Merkel also met with Emperor Akihito. Also on her itinerary was a visit with Japanese scientists to the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation and a meeting with Japanese women executives. The Mitsubishi Fuso plant the Chancellor visited is a joint German-Japanese undertaking.