Singpore, Oct. 11 (AFP): More than 800 business leaders and politicians will gather in Singapore on Sunday for the World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) annual East Asia summit with globalisation again under the spotlight.
Singapore is one of the most ambitious advocates in Asia of free trade and its hosting of the influential forum comes amid a fierce arm wrestle between rich and poor nations over the inequities in the globalisation process.
WEF Asia director Frank-Jurgen Richter told reporters ahead of the summit that the failure of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks in Cancun last month would be one of the big issues discussed in Singapore.
“Especially after Cancun there are many questions now,” Richter said. “Should we go ahead with globalisation' Is Cancun a signal that globalisation is coming to a stop'”
Richter said the answer was a clear yes in favour of continuing with globalisation. The WEF, a renowned pro-globalisation body, released a survey to coincide with the three-day summit asserting that most people in Asia, supported the process. Its key finding, from a poll of nearly 8,000 people across 10 Asian countries, was that more than half of the people in Asia believed that economic globalisation had affected their lives in a positive way.
The findings appeared to jar with the views of the newly powerful bloc of poor countries, the so-called G-22, who asserted forcefully in Cancun that rich nations were exploiting them through globalisation.
One of the biggest areas of concern was the devastating impact the subsidies paid by rich countries — primarily the United States, Japan and those from western Europe — to their farmers had on poor nations.
With the Cancun failure, which many believe has derailed the Doha timetable of January 2005 for implementing many global trade policies, Richter said there would be an increased focus on bilateral and regional free trade agreements (FTAs).
“Indeed free trade agreements are rising in popularity among Asian nations,” the WEF said in a briefing paper on the Cancun failure.
The report highlighted the Association of south-east Asian nations’ prospective trade deals with China and Japan, as well as Singapore’s successful campaign to sign bilateral FTAs with the United States, Australia and New Zealand, among others.
Aside from globalisation and economic integration, other issues on the Singapore agenda include regional terrorism, the hot issue of Asian currencies, as well as business ethics in the region.
The impact of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which had a devastating impact on East Asia’s economies in the first half of this year, will also be discussed, as will the economic prospects of south Asia.
Japan’s reforming financial services minister, Heizo Takenaka, is due to attend the summit, with his nation under the spotlight ahead of general elections due on November 9. Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga are among other leaders due to attend the WEF talks.
Also among the participants are International Monetary Fund deputy managing director Shigemitsu Sugisaki, Visa International president Malcolm Williamson and JP Morgan Chase president Andrew Crockett. Thomas Cook chairman Stefan Pichler, James Murdoch, the chairman of the Star Group and son of global media baron Rupert Murdoch, and Petronas chairman Hassan Marican will also take part.