East Asia is urged to work faster for unity

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 April, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 April, 2004, 12:00am

Nations must get together to meet challenges, Boao Forum leaders say

Asian countries should further strengthen co-operation and speed up economic integration, according to leaders attending the Boao Forum for Asia yesterday.

'It is about time that countries in Asia see themselves belonging to one big family in the same way that the Europeans have started [to see themselves] since the end of world war two,' said forum chairman Fidel Ramos, the former president of the Philippines.

Speaking at the initial press conference for the forum, which starts today, Mr Ramos said Asia must pool its efforts, energy and potential to meet challenges presented by regional integration in North America and Europe.

The Boao Forum had provided a good opportunity for the discussion of regional integration, he said.

Mr Ramos' views were shared by forum secretary-general Long Yongtu, who said economic integration in Asia would be long-lasting only if it was realised through market forces rather than administrative measures. 'To make the forum itself sustainable, we have to take care of the interests of the business community,' he said.

In future the forum, which convenes once a year, will hold more frequent gatherings with one or more specific development issues on the agenda each time.

Mr Long said this would let the world hear the voice of Asia more often. He also emphasised the role of Guangdong and the whole Pearl River Delta in regional co-operation, saying cities in the region should play a bigger role in promoting ties because they would benefit most.

He said Guangdong should turn itself into a regional logistics centre that would contribute more to the national economy by creating jobs.

A further integrated delta region would be at the forefront of economic co-operation between China and its Asian neighbours, he predicted.

Meanwhile, President Hu Jintao, who is scheduled to give a keynote speech today, met several regional political and business leaders in Boao yesterday, including Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.