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Commentary

Vielen dank, Chancellor Merkel

05:04 AM April 02, 2019

Over the last decade, Philippine-German bilateral trade has steadily grown. The Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies, an arm of the Department of Foreign Affairs, reports that commerce between our two countries amounted to $4.54 billion in 2016, roughly 32 percent of total trade with the European Union, with a $301.32 million surplus for the Philippines.

The rising value of this trade has transformed Germany into the Philippines’ largest trading partner on the European continent. And much of this critical commerce has occurred under Chancellor
Angela Merkel, who believed in a compassionate open-door policy toward a swelling tide of Muslim refugees fleeing war, violence and chaos in northern Africa and the Middle East in 2015 and 2016.

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But her sentiments divided German society and triggered a populist-nationalist backlash across Europe. Last year, as the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim crisis continued to disrupt the continent’s stability, Merkel decided to step down at the end of her fourth term in 2021.

A leading light of the Christian Democratic Union, Merkel rose to become her country’s first woman chancellor in 2005. She inherited an economy in the doldrums and an unemployment rate that stood at 12.6 percent, with 5.2 million people out of work. And as her conservative and responsible approach began to reform and
revitalize Germany’s economy, she waved her wand toward China and Asia to expand trade relations.

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As EU’s de facto leader, Merkel saw the strategic logic of trade: A basic role of a strong economy was to act as an enabler lifting the economies of other nations. She understood that prosperity was a principal means by which countries measure and exercise power—that trade deals nurture economic growth, create and support employment, strengthen the middle class, spread knowledge and technology, and promote peace and stability.

This logic was not lost on Sen. Loren Legarda when she proposed in January last year a framework for a social security agreement with Germany, to provide a safety net for Filipinos working abroad.

A few years ago, as a functionary of the Climate Change Commission, I marveled at another dimension in our relations that makes Germany today a truly special partner. Germany is investing in an amazing range of projects salient to our society and to our future, including peace-building and conflict transformation in Mindanao.

Two German agencies—the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the International Climate Initiative (IKI)—provide extensive support and funding to key areas often neglected by our own government. Since nearly all GIZ and IKI projects are embedded in ongoing Philippine government programs, there is scant public awareness about their efforts.

GIZ has been implementing projects to promote economic, ecological and social development in the country since the 1970s. It concentrates on the areas of peace and security, climate change and biodiversity, and economic and human development.

Last year, IKI observed its 10th year of operations here. IKI’s portfolio covers a diverse area: climate policy and biodiversity, economic and human development, adaptation strategies, renewable energy, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and sustainable forestry management.

It seems impossible to reconcile these serious climate actions with the Duterte administration’s increasing reliance on coal-fired generating plants. Regardless, through these broad and generous initiatives of Germany, Angela Merkel can be said to have left her mark on our fair isles, too.

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Rex D. Lores ([email protected]) is a member of the Philippine Futuristics Society. He served as assistant secretary of the Climate Change Commission in the previous administration.

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TAGS: Angela Merkel, EU, European Union, Inquirer Commentary, Philippine-German trade, rex d. lores
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