Forum to promote 'Asian family'
Asian nations should try to catch up with Europe and America in uniting themselves, a major organizer of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) said.
Compared to Europe and America, Asia is lagging behind in terms of integration, said Fidel Ramos, board director of the forum and former president of the Philippines.
"It's about time that Asian countries have the feeling of being members of the Asian family," Ramos said at a press conference.
The forum, whose 2004 annual conference is to be held here this weekend, will offer a stage for the "heavyweight" figures of the region to discuss closer co-operation among Asian countries and between Asia and the rest of the world, Romas said.
Boao, a small seaside village in China's southernmost island province of Hainan, has attracted more than 1,000 high-profile political leaders, scholars and entrepreneurs from Asia and around the world.
The economic growth rates of Asia's major developing countries, such as China, India and Thailand, all exceeded 8 per cent in 2003, pulling the Asian economy to a new high since the outbreak of the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997. Japan, the biggest economy in the region, is also showing signs of recovery.
The region, which is becoming the third most important pillar of the global economy after Europe and America, has an undoubted potential, Ramos said.
The convergence of efforts from its members for their mutual benefits will help the region realize its potential, Ramos said.
With the theme of this year's annual conference being "Asia Searching for Win-Win: An Asia open to the world", the forum, the only non-official international organization in Asia, hopes to serve as a unique platform for Asia and the rest of the world to put Asian issues on the table.
The annual conference's secretariat has announced that Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, George Bush, former president of the United States, and Ernesto Zedillo, former president of Mexico, will all deliver speeches during the conference.
Chinese President Hu Jintao will also deliver a key speech during Saturday's opening ceremony. It is reported that he will focus on China's peaceful rising and opportunities that process would offer Asia.
Conference organizers said they expected Klaus to talk about the European Union's expansion, an experience from which Asia could learn. Zedillo's comments on free trade arrangements in America are also expected to be of interest to Forum participants.
Forum secretary-general Long Yongtu made some use of his special expertise.
He designed a session on global trade talks, which are still in a stalemate after the failure of a ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization last year.
Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile and his New Zealand counterpart Jim Sutton will meet with trade ministers of Asian countries participating in the session.
On Friday, Hu met some VIPs attending the forum, including Ramos, George Bush, former Pakistan President Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sun, Hong Kong SAR Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and Macao SAR Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau Wah, members of the board of the directors of the forum and some trade and industry representatives from home and abroad.