German minister upbeat about economic ties
With his tanned skin and dark hair, Vice Chancellor Philipp Roesler looks more Asian than a typical Anglo-Saxon, yet he insists he is a true-blue German.
"Yes, I was born in Vietnam but I was adopted from a Catholic orphanage nine months after my birth. So I feel very much like a German and speak only German.
"I have no special emotions toward the country of my birth," he said at a recent interview.
The 39-year-old economy and technology minister was visiting Thailand and Vietnam earlier this week to promote German business activities in the region.
This may have been a homecoming of sorts, because though he may not consider Vietnam home, Roesler did spend his first nine months at an orphanage in Khanh Hung before being adopted by his German parents. Now, he is Germany's first Asian-born minister and leads the Free Democratic Party.
But this surgeon-turned-politician does not wish to dwell on his past.
Leading a group of German government officials and businessmen, Roesler met Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, her deputy Commerce Minister Kittirat Na-Ranong, Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul and Transport Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan to discuss future opportunities.
"We are celebrating 150 years of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Germany, so it is a very good time to come here with a big business delegation," he said at a reception in the German Ambassador's residence in Bangkok.
The German minister attached special significance to the planned free-trade talks between the European Union and Thailand, adding that his country was in full support.
Thailand's House of Representatives recently approved the scope of the planned Thai-EU FTA talks, though negotiations have not officially started yet.
Roesler said that in his meetings with Yingluck and other ministers he had realised that: "Yes, they know this is very good not only for the European economy but for the Thai economy as well … I want to make sure we continue to support the EU-Thailand negotiations."
Once the EU-Thailand FTA goes through, the European Union hopes to create a free-trade agreement with Asean after the Asean Economic Community is implemented in 2015, he added.
He explained that Thailand was a very attractive investment destination because it was stable in terms of government, food and food security as well as disaster management.
"We have excellent companies, good products and services. And we want to match those things between Thailand and Germany," he said.
In 2011, the bilateral trade volume was worth 7.2 billion euro (Bt287.7 billion), 10 per cent more in comparison to the previous year, according to a statement issued by the German Embassy.
Roesler said the 15 small and medium-sized technology firms that accompanied him in this trip were interested in areas such as sustainable water management and flood prevention.
He also visited Siemens maintenance facilities for Bangkok's subway system.
When asked about the euro zone debt crisis, he said: "I am convinced that we are on the right path. We need monetary stability, fiscal discipline and structural reform to improve our competitiveness. The euro can become the most stable currency in the world."
Roesler cited Portugal as an example, saying it had succeeded in fiscal discipline and structural reform. "It underlines that we are on the right path."
Asked if he sees himself in the post of German chancellor, he said: "I am the chairman of a small party in Germany and history shows that we have never had any chancellor [from a small party]."