World Economic Forum's Asia meeting to be in territory again

Chris Chapel

THE World Economic Forum (WEF) will hold its Europe/East Asia conference in Hongkong again this year, following the success of last year's event.

WEF's Geneva-based director, Mr Claude Smadja, said the group had adopted the same scheduling system as that used by the World Bank, with the forum to be held in Hongkong for two years and elsewhere every third.

Singapore will host the event next year. The venue for 1997 has not been decided.

More than 400 participants were expected to attend this year's event, to be held from October 13 to 15.

Last year about 380 attended, against expectations of about 250.

The Trade Development Council is the WEF's host partner in staging the forum.

''Because of the success last year and the level of satisfaction, we have already had an unprecedented level of commitment [from participants] both from Europe and East Asia, and from both the business and political sides,'' said Mr Smadja.

Among the big names attending the event will be the director-general of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), Mr Arthur Dunkel.

Mr Smadja said trade would be at the top of forum's agenda: ''We have seen in the discussions a rising concern about the deterioration of the international trade situation, a rising concern in Asia with respect to the failure of achieving success in the Uruguay Round [of GATT].'' Other trade worries common in Asia were a concern about the diversionary impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement and protectionist tendencies in Europe.

The forum will also try to assess the economic outlook for East Asian countries, with particular emphasis on Japan. On the corporate front, attention will focus on strategies to cope with the region's economic boom.

The Chinese economy will be a main topic, with experts discussing whether the mainland will make a hard or soft landing from current rampant growth.

Chinese officials have not been officially invited yet because dates are not firm, but a delegation of mainland businesses will attend and all participants will have the opportunity to visit either Shenzhen or Zhuhai for a day.

As at last year's forum, a series of country lunches will be held to market trade and investment opportunities.

One addition is a series of sectoral workshops covering banking and finance, cars, information technology, textiles, and tourism and aviation.

India will participate in the forum for the first time this year.