Foreign and Military Affairs

Integration of Asian economies will provide greater benefits

Updated: 2011-03-16 07:31

By Ding Qingfen (Xinhua)

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BEIJING - Integration and closer cooperation among Asian economies will be a pressing task in the years ahead, but the integration will create huge benefits for all, said Zhou Wenzhong, secretary-general of the Boao Forum for Asia.

Zhou also said the Boao Forum, a high-level economic forum in Asia, will try to provide Asian nations with a platform for brainstorming and finding good solutions to make the integration happen.

The ongoing yet stumbling Doha round of trade talks, and continuously rising trade protectionism targeting them, are propelling Asian nations to strengthen economic cooperation with each other.

"Regional trade liberalization is becoming more important among Asian nations. There is huge potential to tap in order to stimulate our economies through freeing and opening up trade," said Zhou at the sidelines of the just-ended plenary session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee.

The Doha round of trade talks, which aims to help the economies of emerging markets prosper through lower tariffs, has repeatedly stalled since its launch in late 2001. Although many pin high hopes on seeing a conclusion of the talks this year, many doubt it can happen soon.

Developed nations including the United States and European Union members, whose economic recovery is slow and fragile, have frequently launched trade protectionism against emerging markets since the financial crisis.

More than that, the US last week said it intends to increase influence in Asia by leading the Trans-Pacific Partnership and it expects to make substantial progress on agreement of all key issues of the partnership in coming months.

"The huge regional market is a good precondition for closer economic cooperation," said Zhang Yunling, director of the division of international studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Asian nations are implementing a free-trade strategy in the region to reduce reliance on the demand from developed nations.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed free-trade agreements with China, Japan and South Korea, and the three countries are expected to start trilateral free-trade talks in 2012.

Yu Jianhua, assistant to the minister of commerce, said recently that now is the right time for China, Japan, South Korea and ASEAN to initiate negotiations on establishing the East Asia Free Trade Area.

But implementing the various agreements is not easy, Zhou said, adding that the Boao Forum is expected to offer some help.

"The integration of East Asian economies is key to the integration of Asian markets, but it cannot be implemented quickly as key nations cannot reach consensus on the matter," Zhang said.

As a non-profit international organization, the Boao Forum is a highly-respected economic forum in Asia. It was first held in 2002, and takes place in Boao, a coastal city in Hainan province.

"There has always been a key word for each Boao Forum, and that is 'Asia'. I believe in the following years we will try to focus on the integration of Asian economies, especially the East Asian economies," said Zhou.

The theme of the upcoming Boao Forum, due to be held in mid-April, is "inclusive growth".

During the forum, 150 representatives will discuss how Asian nations could benefit from economic globalization and integration.

As the former Chinese ambassador to the US, Zhou said past experience could help inject more dynamism into the forum as "we will try to invite more authoritative people and organizations to come to contribute to the forum".

China Daily


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