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Visiting Asia with the German Economics Minister – a very special experience

18. October 2010, 10.06, Jan Wörner, 0 Comment/s
The German Economics Minister, Rainer Brüderle, travelled across Asia for a week, presenting German economic policy in China and Japan, and promoting cooperation between these countries and Germany. The delegation included journalists and a number of experts on the economy who either had special relationships in the region or were interested in acquiring them. As the representative of DLR, I had a special role within the group, and this became increasingly apparent over the course of the trip.

Initially, I simply took the invitation I had received as a special challenge and joined the group in Nagoya on Thursday with that mindset. We visited a monosilane plant under construction for Evonik. Here, I met up with old acquaintances from my time on the Supervisory Board of Röhm. This ultra-modern chemical plant was impressive by virtue of the nature of its construction, designed to improve resistance to earthquakes. While here, the Minister delivered a lecture in which he referred to DLR as "the German NASA". In a subsequent speech given to representatives of the regional business community, Mr Brüderle once again expressed his appreciation of our work. At the reception that followed, many Japanese then came over to talk to me about DLR and about our activities. That night we took the Shinkansen – the famous Bullet Train – to Tokyo.

On Friday, we had a packed schedule of visits (for example, the first ever landing of the Airbus A380 at Haneda Airport) and meetings with senior representatives of Japanese corporations. Time after time, the phrase ‘German NASA’ was heard, combined with the potential scope for closer cooperation. In the afternoon, accompanied by representatives of the German Embassy, I visited the Ministry of Science, the Ministry of Economics and the Prime Minister of Japan's Strategic Headquarters for Space Policy. It became very evident that there is great willingness on the part of the Japanese to engage in collaborative ventures across a wide range of sectors. The highlight of the evening was a meeting with the Japanese Economics Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister. Although not previously agreed as a point for discussion, our Japanese hosts raised the topic of spaceflight. The Ministers were of one mind that they should jointly engage in an intensive search for projects that could lend themselves to bilateral cooperation. Minister Brüderle nominated me as the German representative for these discussions with the various Japanese institutions involved in space. This clear definition of tasks now needs to be followed up in depth. Initial ideas include those named at a visit during the previous year – the hyperspectral mission EnMap and the International Space Station.

At a reception held in the German Embassy, I was able to discuss the task assigned to us with my Japanese counterpart, Keiji Tachikawa, the President of JAXA. Viewed as a whole, this visit greatly exceeded my expectations. The discussions were informative and rich in content, the new Japanese acquaintances are very promising and the other delegates who travelled with me represented interesting sectors where it is not possible at this stage to even guess at the outcomes that may emerge from this visit. Overall, a great experience!

Top image: Japan from orbit, source: SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE. Bottom image: Chairman of the DLR Executive Board, Johann-Dietrich Wörner talks with the German Federal Minister of Economics and Technology, Rainer Brüderle. Credit: German Federal Foreign Office.