Goldman Sachs (International) vice-president Robert Hormats yesterday warned that Asia's rapid economic growth was creating 'insecurities' among North American and European competitors. Mr Hormats, an adviser to three former US presidents on economic policy, gave the warning during an opening address at the 32nd World Congress of the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. Earlier, at the ceremony, guest-of-honour Chinese Premier Li Peng gave an upbeat assessment of Asia's economic prospects into the next century and urged greater co-operation with other trading zones. Referring to the domestic economy, Mr Li said retail inflation in the first quarter was 3 per cent. He forecast that China's annual economic growth rate would average 8 per cent over the next three years, and 7 per cent for the first decade of the next century. It was this scale of growth which Mr Hormats said was creating concerns in Western nations. 'Countless North American industries and investors are actively involved in production, trade, and services in Asia,' Mr Hormats told about 1,000 delegates at the Shanghai Exhibition Centre. 'But, on another level, Asia's formidable growth and competitiveness create a sense of insecurity among those in North America and Europe who feel that Asia's regional economic strength challenges our society, our jobs, and our markets.' He said that import competition and foreign investment in the US and Europe could create a 'backlash' and inspire demands for protectionism, particularly against goods or services that challenged domestic industries. 'Political leaders and the business community in both the industrialised and developing countries have much to do to underscore to their citizens that open markets are vital to economic growth, particularly in the new global economy,' he said. His comment reflected the views of many Asian delegates at the meeting, who feel that Western concerns about Asia's growing economic might, particularly in China, is a factor delaying Beijing's entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Malaysian International Trade and Industry Minister Rafidah Aziz echoed Mr Hormats' warning in a blunt address at the opening, when she criticised Western policies towards Asian trading nations, and accused them of harassment.