Leaders must use Boao Forum to tackle global crisis, Wen says
Will Clem and Denise Tsang in Boao, Hainan
Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday called on Asian leaders to use the Boao Forum in Hainan as a platform to strengthen co-operation and jointly tackle the global economic crisis.
'This forum is being held against the background of the global financial crisis, which is having a huge impact on Asia's economies. We hope we can use this opportunity to forge confidence, strengthen co-operation and jointly overcome the challenges,' the premier said during a meeting with his Myanmese counterpart, General Thein Sein.
The three-day Boao Forum for Asia - named after its venue, a sleepy resort town on the tropical island's east coast - got under way against a backdrop of ongoing financial turmoil and downward-spiralling consumer demand. More than 2,000 business and political leaders from the region have gathered to discuss how to co-ordinate their efforts and tackle the challenges.
Fidel Ramos, chairman of the forum's board of directors and former president of the Philippines, said he hoped the forum would underscore the part developing countries in the region had to play in rebuilding the world economy.
'Emerging markets and countries must be given a big role in putting up regulations for better discipline and rules-based systems,' which would create a 'better balance, more equitable and, in the end, a more sustainable financial system'.
Mr Ramos hailed the broadening reach and influence of this year's forum - being held under the slogan 'Asia: managing beyond crisis' - coming in 'the immediate aftermath of the G20 leaders' summit in London at the beginning of April.
'There is a higher level of participation of incumbent leaders at this year's Boao conference,' Mr Ramos said, making particular reference to Mr Wen, who was due to address the conference shortly after 11am this morning. 'There are 10 other persons who are heads of state or heads of government still in office joining us. In short ... our Boao Forum for Asia is in very good health in spite of the worldwide recession.'
Those leaders include the presidents of Pakistan, Togo and Kazakhstan, and prime ministers of Finland, Vietnam, Mongolia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Albania and Myanmar. The deputy prime minister of Thailand and the chief executives of Hong Kong and Macau are also attending.
Retired world leaders are also due to take part in the conference, with former US president George W. Bush set to give a dinner speech tonight and former Japanese leader Yasuo Fukuda talking at today's lunch.
Earlier yesterday the forum venue swarmed with journalists - a record 600 applied for accreditation - who at times appeared to outnumber delegates. Organisers said over 1,300 people were expected to take part, but many may have been holding off until the big names speak today.
The annual forum also provides an opportunity for mainland leaders to seek bilateral agreements with individual governments in the region. Negotiations are under way with at least Vietnam and Taiwan. The secretary general of the Boao Forum for Asia, Long Yongtu, a former diplomat with the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation, said he was encouraged by the number of ministerial-level delegates from the mainland.
'China is going to play a major role in overcoming the financial crisis,' he said.