November 05, 2012
European leaders seek Asian support on debt crisis
EUROPEAN leaders gathered in impoverished Laos on Monday on a mission to reassure Asia they are finally getting a grip on the eurozone debt crisis during a major summit in the tiny landlocked nation.
Top European officials including French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti were spearheading efforts to boost much-needed trade with Asia's fast-growing economies.
Hollande said the main aim of his first trip to Asia since taking office in May was to bring the message that "Europe is still an economic power".
"I'm here to reassure Asian countries" but at the same time "to tell them that they also have a role to play in European and global growth", he added.
"Asians have gained a lot from our growth. Now it's time for them to boost our growth with their demand."
He criticised the inflexibility of the Chinese yuan and certain other Asian currencies, saying: "We have to be competitive but that requires fair exchange rates."
Western nations frequently criticise Beijing's tight grip on the yuan, arguing that it gives the Asian giant an unfair trade advantage.
For years Western outrage over Burma's human rights abuses -- including the longtime detention of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners -- was a major cause of friction between the two regions.
Unlike other participating nations, Burma was only allowed to send its foreign minister to previous Asia-Europe summits.
But after reforms including the release of political detainees and Suu Kyi's election to parliament, the West has begun easing sanctions to reward President Thein Sein, who is now on the summit guest list.
Optimism over the sweeping changes, however, has been dampened by deadly clashes between Buddhists and stateless Rohingya Muslims in Burma's western state of Rakhine.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague called on Burma to address "the unresolved problems of the status of the Rohingya people".
"That's an issue of major concern for us. I'll certainly raise that with the Burma leaders here when I have the opportunity to do so," he told reporters in the Laos capital Vientiane.
Dozens of people have been killed and more than 100,000 displaced since June by the unrest.
The violence is also "an issue of concern" for Southeast Asia, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told AFP.
"But the fact that we can meet here in the heart of Southeast Asia almost without having Myanmar as an issue centre-stage as it has been in the past is a reflection of how far Myanmar has travelled in terms of its democratic transition," he added.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has been accused by the West in the past of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses by the generals who ran Burma for decades.
EU urges Asia to avoid trade protectionism
VIENTIANE: European leaders on Monday urged Asia to avoid trade protectionism and appealed to the region to aid efforts to boost the struggling global economy.
"Promoting trade is not only fostering domestic demand but also avoiding protectionism," European Union president Herman Van Rompuy said at a summit of Asian and European leaders in Laos.
"We trust that our Asian partners will remain committed to open economies and to the commonly agreed multinational trade rules," he added.
European leaders sought to reassure their Asian counterparts at the meeting that they are finally getting a grip on the long-running eurozone debt crisis.
"The financial stability of the eurozone is much stronger than a few months ago. The euro is an irreversible project and on this basis growth can pickup in the course of 2013," Van Rompuy said.
"The economic and financial pressures in Europe are only one part of a wider set of problems worldwide. Growth is a global collective responsibility," he added.
The diplomatic offensive is seen as a sign of the growing importance that Europe places on Asia's vibrant economies.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti told the summit the European Union had made a "huge effort" to tackle the crisis "by more coordination, by fleshing out the future of a genuine economic and monetary union".
He said that Asia also faced slowing economic growth and the risk of financial contagion.
"Past events showed us that the current crisis does not stop on the edge of town but it is really knocking at all doors," Monti said.
EU leaders to ensure Asia that Europe is still open for business
After centuries of European trade barriers' designed at preventing Asian & South pacific nation, & business from trading & doing business in Europe. EU leaders are now trying to ensure Asia that Europe is still open for business.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk is in the Laos capital, Vientiane, for the Asia-Europe summit, alongside European Council president Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission president Jose Barroso.
The guests list for the top-level, biannual summit include 21 prime ministers and 14 heads of state from the 27 EU nations plus China, Japan, India, Russia, Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, South Korea and Mongolia.
EU leaders are seeking ensure that the Asian business sector is aware that despite the eurozone crisis, "Europe is still an economic power," French president Francois Hollande told reporters.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Donald Tusk was in Singapore for talks with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Tony Tan Keng Yam.
The talks agenda included Singapore’s relations with the European Union, notably the final stage of negotiating a free trade agreement, as well as Singapore’s investments in Poland.
A bilateral agreement was signed on avoiding double taxation and on preventing the evasion of taxes on incomes.
Mr Tusk also had a working lunch with representatives of the largest sovereign wealth funds in Singapore, during which he spoke about investment opportunities in Poland.
Among those taking part were the presidents of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation GIC and of Temasek Holdings, which occupy the 8th and 9th place in the list of the world’s top sovereign wealth funds.
The former has already participated in privatisation transactions in Poland and has displayed an interest in further deals. More talks with representatives of sovereign wealth funds are held today and tomorrow by Poland’s Treasury Minister Mikołaj Budzanowski. (mk/pg)
Australia and France discuss global economy
November 05, 2012
PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has praised efforts by European leaders to stabilise the sovereign debt crisis in a meeting with French President Francois Hollande.
Mr Hollande arrived in Laos on Monday for a summit between European and Asian leaders, saying his overarching message was that "Europe is still an economic power".
The meeting in Vientiane comes amid a poor outlook for the global economy, which includes deteriorating prospects for Europe where unemployment continues to rise.
The International Monetary Fund has recently cut its forecast for world output to 3.3 per cent for 2012, down from 3.5 per cent, while figures released last week showed unemployment across the Eurozone had risen to a record 11.6 per cent.
Ms Gillard and Mr Hollande met on Monday afternoon on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe summit, where the agenda is squarely focused on the economic woes facing Europe.
European leaders attending the talks are expected to provide an update on efforts to address financial market tensions, restore confidence and stimulate growth and jobs.
The issues of reform of international financial institutions and protectionism are also on the agenda.
Ms Gillard and Mr Hollande discussed the global economy in their talks, as well as global security.
It's understood Ms Gillard told Mr Hollande Australia "welcomed steps taken by Europe to stabilise the sovereign debt crisis", including Europe's new bail out mechanism and expanded central bank role.
Ms Gillard noted the challenging task of balancing fiscal consolidation with policies that promote economic growth and the generation of jobs.
Ahead of the meeting, Mr Hollande had talked about the need for Europe to boost trade with Asia's fast-growing economies.
He said the main aim of his first trip to Asia since taking office in May was to bring the message that "Europe is still an economic power".
"I'm here to reassure Asian countries" but at the same time "to tell them that they also have a role to play in European and global growth".
"Asians have gained a lot from our growth. Now it's time for them to boost our growth with their demand."
Ms Gillard and Mr Hollande also discussed Iran and Syria - both of which are being dealt with by the UN Security Council which Australia last week was appointed to as a temporary member.
It's understood Ms Gillard reinforced Australia's position that it supports "strong sanctions" against Iran.
Ms Gillard told Mr Hollande Australia had "consistently expressed its strong concerns" about Iran's nuclear program and its failure to abide by its Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and International Atomic Energy Agency obligations.
The prime minister also briefed Mr Hollande on the Asian century white paper, which maps out Australia's plan to engage more with Asia.
"Australia has a clear national plan for its own outlook for growth which is the white paper," Ms Gillard said earlier in the day.
China premier tells officials from Asia, Europe that clear plan is needed for debt crisis
VIENTIANE, Laos – China's premier told a summit of Asian and European leaders Monday that major economic institutions need a clear and reliable plan to solve Europe's sovereign debt crisis.
Wen Jiabao, who is also China's top economic official, told the opening session of the two-day Asia-Europe Meeting in Laos that European nations need to balance reform, stability of financial markets and economic recovery.
"The main economic institutions need to roll out a clear and reliable midterm financial plan as early as possible to solve the sovereign debt crisis," Wen said.
Europe's debt crisis is expected to dominate this year's meeting, which brings together leaders or top ministers from almost 50 countries from the two continents. It is seeking ways to strengthen trade and cooperation between the two blocs.
With Europe's economy as a whole in poor health and with chronic and serious problems such as in Greece and Spain, European leaders are hoping that the strong Asian economies can come to their aid.
The European Union is China's biggest trading partner, and Beijing clearly wants to see it recover. Wen's comments show the concern in Beijing that the contagion in Europe could spread farther.
Following Wen, France's President Francois Hollande almost seemed to counter the Chinese appeal by making a plea for everyone to heed the ways of the free market.
"Europe has always trusted the market on condition that the rule of reciprocity is the same for everyone because Europe cannot be a continent that is always in commercial deficit," Hollande said. "We need to have equal exchange. We believe in an open market system, but we ask that everyone makes the same effort with the same clarity."
Other ASEM sessions will cover a broad range of topics from terrorism and sea piracy to human rights and education. Leaders are also having bilateral meetings on the sidelines.
Along with Wen and Hollande, other heavyweights attending are Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Italy's Premier Mario Monti, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Gillard became the first Australian prime minister to meet with a leader of Myanmar since 1984 when she held talks Monday with President Thein Sein. Australia, like many Western nations, has eased sanctions against Myanmar since the new reform-minded, nominally civilian government took power in March 2011.
"We have seen changes happen, and as change has happened, every step of the way we have welcomed that change and we have shifted Australia's foreign policy settings to recognize that change," Gillard told reporters in Vientiane, the Lao capital.
"This meeting is another recognition of that change," she said.
Gillard said there was still more for Myanmar to do as it transitions to democracy.
"I will certainly be saying as I have said here that we have continuing concern about human rights questions for ethnic minority groups," she said ahead of Monday's meeting.
Although the Myanmar government has signed cease-fires with several ethic guerrilla groups, its forces are still fighting the Kachin minority in the country's north. It has also failed to put an end to communal violence in the western state of Rakhine, where clashes in recent months between minority Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Rakhine have left scores dead and more than 100,000 displaced.
Asian and EU leaders back free trade
Wed, 07 November 2012
Vientiane — European and Asian leaders yesterday agreed to back free trade and resist protectionism as the best means of helping Europe out of its crisis and assuring Asia a rosy future.
“In Asia as well as in Europe, we are in the same boat, as the global economy keeps us interlinked,” European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said at the end of the two-day Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) informal summit held in Vientiane.
The 16-year-old grouping, which brings together 49 Asian and European counties along with the European Commission and Secretariat of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), accounts for 60 per cent of the world’s trade.
European and Asian leaders on Tuesday agreed to back free trade and resist protectionism as the best means of helping Europe out of its crisis and assuring Asia a rosy future.
''In Asia as well as in Europe, we are in the same boat, as the global economy keeps us interlinked,'' European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said at the end of the two-day Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) informal summit held in Vientiane.
The European Union expressed a keen interest in pushing through new free trade agreements, similar to the ones recently reached with South Korea, with India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, to boost trade between the two regions.
``We don't see trade as a panecea, but clearly we see trade as a very important instrument for growth,'' said European Commission (EC) President Jose Manuel Barroso.
The 16-year-old Asem grouping, which brings together 49 Asian and European counties along with the EC and secretariat of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, accounts for 60% of the world's trade.
The 9th Asem fell as Europe is still suffering from the eurozone crisis while Asian economies are still growing, albeit slower than previously due to declining demand in Europe - which accounts for about 42% of Asian exports.
``Part of the growth in Asia is also the result of the open market in Europe, because we are the most important destination for Asian products,'' Mr Barroso said.
Asia, which currently accounts for about a quarter of European exports, is clearly a growing market.
``Asia is a big market for Finland, especially in clean technology, renewable energy and information technology,'' Finish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen said.
``These are the areas where we are growing, in which Finland is quite good, and Asia forms the biggest and fastest growing market for us,'' he said.
At the summit there was a broad acknowledgement that Europe needs to get its economic house in order, while Asia needs to keep its markets open to European goods, and hopefully expand trade through inking more free trade agreements in the near future.
``From this debate it emerged that in the modern world we all should row in the same direction,'' Rompuy said. ``We need each other.''
The 9th ASEM fell at a time when Europe is still suffering from the euro zone crisis while Asian economies are still growing, albeit slower than previously due to declining demand in Europe — which accounts for about 40 per cent of Asian exports.
At the summit there was a broad acknowledgement that Europe needs to get its economic house in order, while Asia needs to keep its markets open to European goods, hopsfully through more free trade agreements.
“From this debate it emerged that in the modern world we all should row in the same direction,” Rompuy said. “We need each other.” The 10th ASEM is to be held in Brussels in 2014.
Meanwhile, surveys showed yesterday that the fourth quarter has so far brought no improvement in the fortunes of most of Europe’s economies, which now risk shrinking more than previously expected.
Purchasing managers indexes (PMIs), which gauge the activity of thousands of companies worldwide, showed euro zone businesses endured their worst month in October since June 2009, with little hope of a turnaround coming soon.
The euro zone relies heavily on Germany, its largest economy, to generate growth. Business activity there shrank at faster pace last month.
Survey compiler Markit said the latest PMI was consistent with the euro zone economy shrinking at a quarterly rate of around 0.5 per cent.
If the PMIs fail to improve for November and December, the euro zone economy could easily face a hefty contraction in the fourth quarter rather than the stagnation projected by economists polled by Reuters two weeks ago.
The Asia–Europe Meeting (ASEM)
The Asia–Europe Meeting (ASEM)
ASEM currently has 51 partners: 49 countries and 2 international organizations. The partners are Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brunei, Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Laos, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mongolia, Myanmar, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Vietnam, European Commission and ASEAN Secretariat.
The 10th Asem is to be held in Brussels in 2014.