October 31, 2011 2:02 am
Amid increasing natural calamities in the region, relief issues to get priority in discussions by leaders
Relief measures for floods and other natural disasters will be a top agenda item for the sixth East Asia Summit (EAS) in Bali in mid-November.
Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said flood relief would be put near the top of the agenda by Asean leaders and its eight EAS partners as many countries in Southeast Asia are facing severe inundation.
Asean countries are facing more and more natural disasters, necessitating measures such as emergency funds and warning systems. Such measures would alleviate not only damage to each affected country’s economy but also regional impacts.
Surin said the leaders of Asean countries would discuss how to recover their economic growth and prevent future natural disasters for the good of the whole region.
Also on the agenda for the summit will be how the region and its trading partners will cope with the global slowdown in economic growth while Asia continues to show the strongest growth of any region.
This EAS will be the first to
host US President Barack Obama, who is scheduled to attend the meeting on November 19, as his country has been admitted to the grouping.
Russia has also joined the EAS, which will also be attended by leaders from the 10 Asean member states and six Asean dialogue partner countries, China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.
It will be Obama’s second official visit as US president to Indonesia, where he spent part of his childhood in the late 1960s.
Indonesia is hosting the re-gional dialogue in its capacity as chair of Asean, which forms the core of the broader EAS. The United States and Russia were admitted to the now-18-nation EAS last year, but Obama did not attend the leaders’ meeting in Hanoi last October, sending Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in his place.
The EAS is also an important forum for elevating the economic relationship between Asean and China. At a recent meeting with Surin, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the EAS in November would be significant in marking the 20th anniversary of China-Asean ties, and Beijing was looking forward to making a joint declaration at the summit.
Surin agreed that this was an important landmark, and he urged China to boost its investments in Asean.
To date, total bilateral trade is close to US$300 billion (Bt9.1 trillion), while Chinese investments in Asean total about $12 billion. Surin said that by boosting its investments in the bloc, China would help ease domestic anxieties among some Asean nations about opening their economies.
China’s target for total bilateral trade hitting $500 billion by 2015 appears to be on track. Trade between China and Asean has grown 37 times over the past two decades, and earlier trade targets were achieved ahead of schedule.
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