Germany welcomes Central Asian govts as Russia trade tumbles

Weekly German cabinet meeting in Berlin

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany September 13, 2023. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse Acquire Licensing Rights

BERLIN, Sept 19 (Reuters) – A leading German business group on Tuesday welcomed Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s move to invite officials from Central Asian countries for talks next week, in a bid to deepen economic ties as relations with Russia tumbled since the war in Ukraine.

German exports to Russia have sunk nearly 40% in the first seven months of 2023 while Russia has dropped to being Germany’s 36th most important trading partner from 14th place within a year.

At the same time, trade relations with eastern partner countries were undergoing a “profound reorganisation”, the German Eastern Business Association said in a statement, welcoming Scholz’s move.

“The fact that German exports to Central Asia and the South Caucasus are recording strong growth is good news,” said the association’s head, Cathrina Claas-Muehlhaeuser.

“These countries are gaining new importance as alternative business locations and trading partners.”

Claas-Muehlhaeuser called for a greater European Union commitment to Central Asia and a constructive attitude to dealing with Russian sanctions evasion via countries in the region.

“We know from our discussions that there is a great will to prevent sanctions being circumvented,” she said in a statement. “We do not believe that hasty condemnations or even blanket sanctions against third countries are effective.”

Reporting by Andreas Rinke, Writing by Rachel More and Matthias Williams

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