Business heads urge Asia to start showing global leadership

SINGAPORE (AFP) – Asia must start to take a leading role in tackling pressing global issues including climate change, business chiefs said Sunday at the World Economic Forum on East Asia.

The region’s increased economic might has resulted in higher expectations for Asian countries to come together and play a bigger part on the world stage, they said at the start of the two-day forum.

“There is a perception, I think well established in the world, that the 21st century is going to see a growing Asian leadership and one of the objectives of these two days’ meeting is talking about the Asian leadership and what does it mean,” said Carlos Ghosn, president and chief executive of carmakers Renault and Nissan.

Despite its economic success, Asia is still perceived by the international community as lacking the common ground that would allow it to tackle global challenges, Ghosn said.

“Today there is a perception that when you take Japan, China, India, Korea, Southeast Asia, the common things shared by the different countries are not substantial enough,” Ghosn said at a media briefing held on the sidelines of the WEF.

“People would like to know how all these countries are going to be able to establish one agenda, one common agenda, particularly to address some of the common concerns that the world has,” he said.

E. Neville Isdell, chairman and chief executive of the Coca-Cola Company, also called for a larger Asian voice on the future of the global trading system that has benefited the region in the last decade.

“The one that I want to focus on is really the world trading system and how that has benefited Asia to such a major degree because we all know the wonderful story of the number of people who have come out of poverty in the last 20 years,” said Isdell.

“We sit here today with considerable bad news over the latest discussions around the Doha Round and I think that certainly I would appeal to members of ASEAN to have become more involved for their voices to be heard, and clearly, with regard to the Doha Round,” he said, referring to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The Doha round of global trade talks is currently stalled due mainly to deep differences over agricultural subsidies and trade tariffs among the key trading powers.

The multilateral talks, dubbed the Doha Development Round, were launched in the Qatari capital Doha in 2001 with the intention of ensuring that poor countries taste the fruits of freer global trade.

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