Asia forum to focus on reform and growth

Boao conference organisers say region must find new ways of driving its economies amid sluggish global demand and rising costs

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2014, 2:40am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2014, 2:40am

Asia needs to find new ways to drive growth amid a sluggish global economy, according to the secretary general of the Boao Forum.

Countries including China have seen the pace of growth slow, and reform and new ideas were needed to drive economies forward, Zhou Wenzhong told Xinhua.

That topic will be the focus of the annual forum on Hainan island that starts today with discussions and speeches by business leaders and politicians focusing on innovation, reform and sustainable development.

Highlights include a keynote address by Premier Li Keqiang on China's reform programme.

Observers will be watching to see if Li meets Vincent Siew Wan-chang, a former vice-president of Taiwan who leads a delegation from the island.

If Li did hold talks with Siew, the two were likely to discuss "in principle" the cross-strait services trade pact that has prompted student-led protests in Taiwan, but they probably would not go into details, said Yang Lixian , a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Institute of Taiwan Studies.

But Liu Guoshen , head of Xiamen University's Taiwan Research Institute, said the two were likely to have a direct conversation about the issue as it has had a major impact on cross-strait ties.

Other highlights at the forum include Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Chan Ka-keung joining the People's Bank of China governor, Zhou Xiaochuan , for a panel discussion on the city's role in the internationalisation of the renminbi

Zhou Wenzhong, a former envoy to the United States, said business and political leaders would take part in more than 60 panel discussions during the forum, which runs until Friday.

Finance Minister Lou Jiwei , Deputy Foreign Minister Li Baodong and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will discuss the role of Apec in helping trade.

Asia Development Bank vice-president Stephen Groff and Justin Lin Yifu, honorary dean and professor of the national school of development at Peking University, will discuss the Asian financial and trade environment amid reforms.

Panel discussions are themed around the biggest topics facing the mainland's financial industry, including internet finance, interest rate liberalisation, urbanisation, fiscal and tax reform, and the internationalisation of the renminbi.

The forum has placed more weight on private companies in recent years and the trend would prevail at this year's event as more and more mainland companies do business overseas, Zhou said.

This year's event would, for the first time, encourage more young businessmen and women to take part, Zhou said.

Among the particular challenges facing Asian economies were a sluggish demand for goods and services and rising labour costs, a statement from the forum organisers said.