Thursday, June 18, 2009

Asia Seen Ready to Take Stronger Leadership Role

The Irrawaddy News

SEOUL — Asia's power is likely to grow in the wake of the global financial crisis and it has the chance to take a position of leadership in the world economy, business and economic leaders said Thursday.

The comments came at the annual World Economic Forum on East Asia, a gathering of business and government leaders taking place this year in Seoul.

"There is no doubt that the crisis has accelerated the shift in economic power from the West towards Asia," Peter Sands, group CEO of Standard Chartered Bank, told a symposium. "And Asia in a sense needs to step up now and play the role that such power brings."

He said that entails taking a much more active role in international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, a development he said is "in progress."

Rajat M. Nag, managing director-general at the Asian Development Bank, said one way Asia can lead is by changing its economic model, which means shifting away from being a producer for the world toward being a producer for itself as well.

"Asia has to start on a very different growth pattern," he said. "This means that Asia will have to rebalance the sources of its growth more towards the domestic and regional demand without turning its back on globalization."

Asia's role in the Group of 20 major industrialized and developing economies was also a theme of discussion.

Heizo Takenaka, director of the Global Security Research Institute at Tokyo's Keio University and a former Japanese internal affairs minister, predicted that the G-20 was destined to supplant the Group of Eight nations as the leading global economic grouping.

Takenaka said he expects this year's G-8 summit in Italy to be "the last one in history."

Kiat Sittheeamorn, trade representative at the office of Thailand's prime minister, said, however, that the G-20 must live up to its words, especially about protectionism.

He said that though the G-20 has called for countries to resist the temptation to implement protectionist measures, the reality has been different.

Kiat said that 17 of the 20 members had imposed 47 protectionist steps, including farm measures and export refunds, since their recent meetings.

"If all countries that participated in that kind of meeting do not walk the talk, do not really do what they preach, then we have a significant problem," he said.

The ADB's Nag said that Asia must address what he called "some of its very serious governance issues," including corruption, if it is to truly become a global leader.

"Without that the G-20 structure ... is not going to fulfill its potential and Asia will not achieve its destiny at the table of nations," he said.

He expressed confidence, however, that the region will succeed in helping ignite the global economy.

"Asia will lead the way out for the rest of the world," he said, citing the ADB's projection that the region, excluding Japan, Australia and New Zealand, will grow about 6 percent in 2010, up from a projected 3.4 percent this year.

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