WEF urges Asian leaders to play bigger role in world affairs

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Asian leaders should play a bigger role in world affairs, including in building global financial frameworks and the architecture of international trade, the World Economic Forum concluded at its 19th forum on East Monday.

About 500 participants attending the two-day forum held in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City for the first time argued that the region had recovered swiftly from the global economic crisis, but the challenges to forming a more stable system remained complex and connected. Many experts warned that Asia was still vulnerable to global risks.

"A truly new opportunity has dawned on East Asia and so it must take a greater role in global governance," said Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister of Vietnam.

Dung said every Asian country should strive to enhance its role and leadership capacity with a vision to the long-term future.

He said the development model of the region had been put to the test, and had shown its value in coming out of the last crisis. However, he stressed that strategic adjustments were necessary to keep up with post-crisis developments on the international stage.

The PM also said interregional relationships should be promoted to provide strong support to economic development, and to serve as the basis for the increasingly important role of the region.

The strengthening of cooperation should be based on the principle of "unity within diversity."

Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of WEF, said it was time for ABRIC the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Brazil, Russia, India and China to take center stage. He said East Asia should play a more significant role in global affairs.

Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organization, said the region has promoted the opening of its markets to support its increasingly economic role on the international scene.

"Looking at Asia, one sees very good examples of trade opening leading to growth," said Lamy. "The countries that are the most open have been doing better during and after the global crisis than countries that were less open".

Participants said green and low-carbon economies should be promoted in East Asia with government support.

They said the region needed to create new business models for clean and inclusive growth, adding that the preservation of natural resources and sustainable development were both imperative.

Asian countries should create incentives and subsidies for research and development in green technologies, experts said.

"We talk about the shift of economic gravity toward Asia, but with greater economic reputation should come with greater responsibility," Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said. Indonesia will host the 20th World Economic Forum on East Asia in June next year.

Six members of the G20 come from East Asia, so the issues that matter most to developing countries and the region in particular should be on the table at G20 meetings, participants said.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, 2010 ASEAN chair, will take part at the G20 summit in Korea later this year.

Global firms join public-private task force in Vietnam

Twelve multinational companies have joined with the Vietnamese government to establish a public-private task force to advance sustainable agricultural growth in the country.

Developed through discussions of the forum's New Vision for Agriculture Initiative, the task force will take an innovative approach to improve food security and agricultural sustainability nationwide, according to a WEF statement.

As the first of its kind in Vietnam, the task force will work to coordinate and leverage public and private sector investments in agriculture to increase high-quality production while benefiting farmers.

The task force will operate both on a strategic level, exchanging best practice and addressing policy issues, and on an operational level, working to scale up effective initiatives by combining public and private sector capacities.

"Government and business share the same goal as we both want to see strong and sustainable growth in Vietnam's agriculture sector," said Cao Duc Phat, minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. "We have identified a number of ways in which we can work together more effectively toward that goal."

The task force will work to develop an initial action plan in the coming six months for presentation at the WEF Annual Meeting 2011 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.

Participating companies include Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge, Cargill, Dupont, METRO Group, Monsanto, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Swiss Re, Syngenta, Unilever and Yara International.

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