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UPDATED: 13:09, April 21, 2007
BFA Annual Conference 2007 opens, focusing on Asian integration
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The Annual Conference 2007 of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) opened Saturday in Boao of southern China's Hainan Province, focusing on integration of the whole Asia.

China's top legislator Wu Bangguo attended the opening ceremony and delivered a keynote speech.

Wu spoke highly of the BFA and showed confidence that the forum will grow into an important regional platform of dialogue for promoting business cooperation and common development in Asia.

Asia's gross domestic products (GDP) grew by over 6 percent annually in the past seven years, contributing to 20 percent of the world economic growth. Asia's economy, trade and foreign exchange reserves respectively takes up one fourth, one third and three fourths of the world's total, said Wu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislative body.

Sustained development in individual Asian countries has led to increasingly closer economic links within the region, expanding common interests and heightened awareness of the Asian identity, he said, adding that development and cooperation in Asia are enjoying unprecedented momentum.

Wu summarized five shared values of Asian countries and regions in promoting peaceful development, saying that they are precious assets which should be enriched and carried forward in development endeavors.

The five values are to maintain peace in Asia, enhance regional cooperation, accelerate scientific and technological innovations, conserve resources and protect the environment and promote harmony in Asia.

Peace is essential for Asia's development, said Wu, calling for Asian nations to accommodate each other's interest and concerns, properly handle issues left over from history and current problems and work together to maintain security and stability in Asia.

With the world moving closer to multipolarization and economic globalization gaining momentum, regional cooperation in Asia will be steadily enhanced, said the top legislator of China.

Though Asian nations have been devoted to regional integration in the past years, the future for an integrated Asia remained obscure, said Long Yongtu, secretary-general of the BFA. He predicted that at least 50 more years are needed to achieve that goal.

Wu defined "harmony" as fundamental to Asia's development, saying that harmony is a good tradition and should be carried forward.

"We should respect the diversity of civilizations, encourage dialogue on an equal footing among civilizations, expand common ground while shelving differences," he said.

Despite the robust economic growth among Asian nations, the region is worried about how to achieve sustainable development in face of pollution and energy shortage.

Wu called for Asian nations to pursue a new strategy for industrialization which is high-tech driven, resources-efficient and environment-friendly and fully taps the strengths of human resources.

During the two-day conference, more than 1,400 of the most influential politicians, business leaders and intellectuals from Asia and around the globe will discuss topics concerning the Asian economic community, Asian values, corporate social responsibility and innovation in the banking and telecommunications sectors.

BFA Secretary-General Long Yongtu said that East Asia is currently the most active subregion in regional economic cooperation, but South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia have been forgotten in the entire Asian regional cooperation process.

Observers said Asian countries outside East Asia are hoping to see an arrangement connecting the whole of Asia, while Australia and New Zealand are making efforts to "join" Asia and take a positive approach to the Asian economic integration.

Against such a backdrop, according to Long, the Boao Forum for Asia, which is a dialogue channel for the whole Asia, wishes to play its unique role to fill in the vacuum.

The BFA, established in 2001, is a non-governmental organization serving as a platform voicing for Asia's future.

The 2007 conference, with the theme "Asia Winning in Today's Global Economy -- Innovation and Sustainable Development", will run from Saturday to Sunday in Boao.

Fidel V. Ramos, former president of the Philippines and chairman of the BFA board of directors, said at the opening ceremony that the forum seeks to enhance understanding and communication that transcend regional, political, economic, geographical and cultural boundaries.

To promote innovation and sustainable development in Asia is to help build a harmonious world of lasting peace and shared prosperity, said Ramos.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) promised to build an integrated trade zone and has taken a brave step towards an organization like the European Union, said Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, president of the Philippines.

The ASEAN nations will strengthen political and economic cooperation with other partners in Asia, said Arroyo, adding that BFA will provide such a mechanism for the cooperation and a new mode of Asian development is expected to be achieved in the process.

Microsoft Corporation chairman Bill Gates also spoke at the opening ceremony.

Source: Xinhua

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