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Wen expected to share China's viewpoints at Laos summit
Premier Wen Jiabao arrived in Laos on Sunday night, ahead of the upcoming 18th CPC National Congress scheduled to start on Thursday, for a two-day Asia-Europe summit about the global economic recovery.
The arrangement reflects the great importance Beijing attaches to the current economic situation amid a gloomy world economic picture, Chinese experts said.
Scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in Vientiane, Laos, the biennial summit of the Asia-Europe Meeting will bring together Asian and European government leaders to discuss the economic situation as well as global and regional issues.
Wen will introduce China's views on the global and local economic and financial situations, as well as propose suggestions to boost the world economy through Asia-Europe cooperation, Assistant Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu said last week.
The summit comes days after German Chancellor Angela Merkel and leaders of five global financial organizations said on Oct 30 that "the recovery of the global economy is on a fragile track, and prospects still remain uncertain". They called for fiscal consolidation and structural reforms.
According to IMF forecasts, the world economy is now facing "considerable downside risks". The global growth rate has been estimated at 3.3 percent for 2012 and 3.6 percent for 2013.
However, EU statistics showed on Oct 29 that in the first half of 2012, European exports to its 19 Asian ASEM partners rose by 12.8 percent in comparison with the first half of 2011, from 226 billion euros ($290.2 billion) to 255 billion euros. Their imports from the Asian members also increased by 1.6 percent, from 373 billion euros to 379 billion.
Simon Shen, assistant professor with the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, told Xinhua that despite the lingering debt crisis and Europe's weaker status as an economy, people should not look down upon Europe's economic strength.
Still, fast developing Asian nations including China and India are facing "downside risks" overflowing from Europe, he said.
The ASEM mechanism is intended to make the two regions, which are at different development stages, complement each other, he said.
Zhan Jianxiong, an expert on European studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Asian economies, especially China, will hold more sway at the ASEM summit this year compared with previous ones due to their better economic performance.
"I think Asian countries, including China, will propose changes to the global economy and financial regulations to help boost the economy and make it fairer and more healthy," he said.
Zhan said the arrangement for Wen to attend the summit despite his tight agenda ahead of the CPC National Congress is also related to the importance China attaches to its relations with Asian neighbors as regional tensions over territorial disputes have escalated this year."Every such occasion is a precious chance for China," Zhang said, adding that Beijing is also showing support for Laos, a close neighbor and host of the summit.
During his stay in Laos, Wen is scheduled to meet Lao leaders, including Choummaly Sayasone, president and General-Secretary of the Central Committee of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, and Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong.
China helped Laos build the venue for the ASEM summit for free. The project, with a budget of 450 million yuan ($72 million), was finished on Oct 8.
Another highlight of the 9th ASEM summit will be its expansion. Bangladesh, Switzerland and Norway will join the summit, giving the group 51 members and making it represent nearly 60 percent of the world's population and trade volume.
Shen Jiru, an expert on international strategy with the CASS, told Chinese media that the involvement of Bangladesh has made South Asia better represented in the ASEM mechanism.
The participation of Switzerland, a country with strong financial power, and Norway bears special significance to the meeting, especially for economic recovery, Shen said.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has also stressed the importance of the ASEM in some of his articles published recently in foreign media. He said amid the transfer of global economic attention to the East, Russia's priority of development will lie with Siberia and the Far East.
Medvedev will lead the Russian delegation to join the summit. Russia joined the ASEM in 2010.
The ASEM summit, which started in Thailand in 1996, involves 46 countries and two international organizations - the European Commission and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Secretariat. It is held every two years in Asia and Europe on a rotating basis.
Zhou Wa contributed to this story.
(China Daily 11/05/2012 page11)