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Boao Forum eyes new push for growth


About 850 high-profile political leaders, scholars and entrepreneurs from Asia and around the world will brainstorm in Boao this weekend to search for new opportunities for Asia to push its growth to new heights.

"The new opportunities have a two-fold meaning," said Long Yongtu, secretary-general of the Boao Forum for Asia.

Countries and companies in Asia will seek opportunities in the globalized economy, said Long, while other regions and companies outside Asia have interests to explore the benefits of the fast-growing Asian economy.

The Asian Development Bank, in its flagship annual economic publication, "Asian Development Outlook," released earlier this month, expects Asia to achieve an overall economic expansion of 7.2 per cent in 2006 and 7 per cent in 2007, after the better than expected 7.4 per cent in 2005.

"During the past four conferences, we have had many effective discussions to form some conceptual common ground, now we are going to touch some detailed opportunities," said Long yesterday, in an interview before the forum's opening.

Officially launched in 2002, the Boao Forum fixed its theme as "Asia Searching for Win-Win" in 2003. This year it is "New Opportunities for Asia Driving Growth to the Next Level."

Topics include Asian financial integration, energy co-operation, partnership between China and India, and other topics about China's development. For example, China's openings in the financial and banking sectors also mean opportunities for Asia and the rest of the world.

The forum held in Boao, a small seaside village in China's southernmost island province of Hainan, is a non-governmental, not-for-profit international organization.

The success of the forum also depends on Asia's take-off and China's economic growth.

Emerging Asia has made substantial gains in trade and output in recent years, expanding at rates far exceeding global averages.

Intra-regional co-operation is important to the trend, according to an annual report on economic integration in Asia issued by the forum, jointly produced with the World Bank.

Underlying the region's trade expansion has been a rise in cross-border production sharing, with China playing a key role, said the report.

It predicted that there is room for the region to speed up liberalization in the service sector.

"To that end, successful multilateral service trade liberalization under the Doha Round is important," Long said.

The forum will have a session on why the World Trade Organization's Doha Round must succeed, which will be addressed by trade ministers from Indonesia, New Zealand and the Philippines.

However, there remain risks to the region's continued strength, the report warned, such as the large and growing global imbalances.

The US current account deficit reached record levels in 2005, matched by a growing surplus in Asia. The region, which remains highly dependent on external demand, needs a combination of measures to adjust it, the report said.

(China Daily: April 21)

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