Asia-Europe summit cements agreement on key issues

Asian and European leaders on Tuesday stressed their determination to cement partnership between the two regions as the Ninth Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit in Lao capital of Vientiane concluded.

With economic and financial issues featuring high on the agenda, the occasions bring together heads of state and government of 51 ASEM partners following the accession of Norway, Switzerland and Bangladesh as new members.

Participants exchanged views on lessons learned, experiences, constructive ideas, initiatives as well as Asian vision in view of ensuring a quality and efficient growth of ASEM during the two-day closed-door plenary sessions.

As highlight of the summit, the ASEM Chairman’s Statement and the Vientiane Declaration on Strengthening Partnership for Peace and Development were adopted. “To strengthen Asia-Europe partnership in development as an essential element of our economic and technical cooperation and assistance, which will forge closer economic and social cohesion and integration and narrow the development gap among ASEM partners, ” reads the Vientiane Declaration issued at the end of the gathering.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy as the next Chair of ASEM emphasized that progress was made with Asian leaders on economic, political and socio-cultural issues but admitted that challenges remained for the 2014 chapter of the summit.

“Eurozone is on the right track and growth is expected to pick up in 2013 but in an interlinked world where growth is a worldwide process, both regions need to work together to put the world back on a sustainable growth path,” he said at the closing ceremony.

In the last two decades, the Asia-Pacific’s share in the global economy has tripled from almost 6 percent to 18 percent. EU’ s open market has been the main destination of Asian exports and EU’s trade with ASEM partners have increased by 50 percent over the past six years. “Experience from Asian partners in the handling of economic and financial crisis is certainly welcomed as we can and should all learn from each other,” Rompuy said.

To ride out the ongoing global economic crisis, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Monday put forward a four-point proposal including free, open and fair international trade, enhancement of macroeconomic policy coordination, innovations in science and technology and a sound global economic governance system.

The declaration also emphasized the need of enhancing cooperation in tackling major global challenges such as food and energy security, fight against poverty and climate change.

On political issues, Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong said that ASEM members share the views that to effectively address the challenges, it requires to strengthen cooperation and partnership between the two continents. Discussed new initiative on promoting and expanding cooperation in the areas of social- cultural, education, health, environment, among others, will promote a more people-to-people contact, friendship, solidarity and mutual understanding between Asia and Europe.

The largest-ever international conference ever hosted by Laos, a land-locked country with a population of 6.5 million, the summit was also considered a good chance for the nation to raise its role and reputation in the regional and international arenas.

Established 17 years ago, the original goals of ASEM were to maintain and enhance peace and stability and to promote sustainable economic and social development.

The 10th ASEM Summit will be held in Brussels under the chairmanship of EU in 2014.


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