Reuters reported on September 19 that a leading German business group has welcomed Chancellor Olaf Scholz's move to invite officials from Central Asian countries for talks in a bid to deepen economic ties as relations with Russia tumbled since the war in Ukraine.

According to Reuters, 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 reorganization", 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."

Established in 1952, the German Eastern Business Association (Ost-Ausschuss der Deutschen Wirtschaft, or OA) is the major regional initiative of the German economy for 29 countries in Central Europe, Eastern and Southeastern Europe, in the South Caucasus and in Central Asia.  The OA is supported by six central associations of German business and has nearly 400 member companies.