Free trade for Asia and Europe
- Published: 6/11/2012 at 08:03 PM
- Online news:
European and Asian leaders on Tuesday agreed to back free trade and resist protectionism as the best means of helping Europe out of its crisis and assuring Asia a rosy future.
''In Asia as well as in Europe, we are in the same boat, as the global economy keeps us interlinked,'' European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said at the end of the two-day Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) informal summit held in Vientiane.
The European Union expressed a keen interest in pushing through new free trade agreements, similar to the ones recently reached with South Korea, with India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, to boost trade between the two regions.
``We don't see trade as a panecea, but clearly we see trade as a very important instrument for growth,'' said European Commission (EC) President Jose Manuel Barroso.
The 16-year-old Asem grouping, which brings together 49 Asian and European counties along with the EC and secretariat of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, accounts for 60% of the world's trade.
The 9th Asem fell as Europe is still suffering from the eurozone crisis while Asian economies are still growing, albeit slower than previously due to declining demand in Europe - which accounts for about 42% of Asian exports.
``Part of the growth in Asia is also the result of the open market in Europe, because we are the most important destination for Asian products,'' Mr Barroso said.
Asia, which currently accounts for about a quarter of European exports, is clearly a growing market.
``Asia is a big market for Finland, especially in clean technology, renewable energy and information technology,'' Finish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen said.
``These are the areas where we are growing, in which Finland is quite good, and Asia forms the biggest and fastest growing market for us,'' he said.
At the summit there was a broad acknowledgement that Europe needs to get its economic house in order, while Asia needs to keep its markets open to European goods, and hopefully expand trade through inking more free trade agreements in the near future.
``From this debate it emerged that in the modern world we all should row in the same direction,'' Rompuy said. ``We need each other.''
The 10th Asem is to be held in Brussels in 2014.
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