Leaders from Asian and European launched the Ninth Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit in Lao capital of Vientiane on Monday with economic and financial issues key areas for discussion.
European Council President Van Rompuy said at the opening ceremony that the European Union (EU) have maintained close contact with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for 35 years, which paves the way for the EU to be even more fully involved with the region. “The two regions need to cooperate to promote peace, promote human rights and promote sustainable development and climate change. We have a historical responsibility to safeguard peace and work together for prosperity and growth. In some way, we all belong to the Eurasian continent,” he said.
Rompuy urged reinforcement of political leadership in Asia and more partnership agreements with Asian nations.
Founded in 1996, the ASEM now represents half of the world’s population, more than half of the world’s GDP and 55 percent o f the world trade, showing the centrality of Asia-Europe relations in today’s world, according to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. “But more important than statistics and figures, is the common political will to jointly address today’s challenges. This relation is indeed key for the world’s prosperity and security,” said Barroso.
Under the theme “Friends for Peace, Partners for Prosperity”, the two-day ASEM summit started with economic discussions by heads of state and government from 51 partners following the accession of Bangladesh, Norway and Switzerland as new members. In his keynote speech delivered on the occasion, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said as long as Asia and Europe cooperate with each other closely, they can certainly be able to shoulder the responsibility of promoting a steady growth of the world economy. “China has taken a crucial role in global economic governance, helped push forward the reform of the international financial system and extended a helping hand to countries with economic difficulties,” said Wen, who would also pay a state visit to Laos.
The two-day Vientiane Summit will take up other issues including food and energy security, socio-cultural cooperation and climate change, among others.