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Latest update : 2010-10-04

European and Asian leaders from 48 nations began three days of talks centred on trade, IMF reform and climate change on Monday, but a territorial spat between Japan and China threatened to overshadow the event.


AP - European and Asian leaders will seek common ground on ways to fix and regulate the global financial market but will likely be bogged down by such issues as market restrictions and trade surpluses during three days of summits.
Monday kicks off with the opening of the two-day Asia-Europe ASEM summit and will be followed up with bilateral EU summits with China and South Korea on Wednesday.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao already set the tone of proceedings during his visit to debt-laden Greece this weekend, vowing to double trade in five years and promising to buy Greek bonds when Athens returns to international markets.
“The European Union is China’s biggest trading partner,” Wen said Sunday. “Relations between the two sides have reached an unprecedented level. Both are irreplaceable partners.”
Overall, the 48 nations from the two continents represent about half the world’s Gross Domestic Product and 60 percent of global trade. but, instead of Europe driving the summits, the emergence of China as a new trading juggernaut has somewhat turned the tables on the biennial meetings.
Last week, the International Monetary Fund said that Asian and Latin American economies were doing well but prospects for some European countries, including Greece, remain uncertain.
Wen insisted however that mutual help was the only way ahead. “Cooperation can help both sides significantly. They do not have any fundamental clashes of interests. Both sides have a stake in rebuilding the international financial system.”
Besides the economy, the summit could also be hijacked by an Asian bilateral issue as China and Japan continue a diplomatic row following the arrest of a Chinese fishing boat captain whose trawler collided with Japanese patrol vessels near disputed islands.
“It is important to thoroughly explain the stance of our country,” Prime Minister Naoto Kan said of his plans at the summit.
Since the incident in the East China Sea, Beijing has suspended ministerial-level talks with Tokyo and postponed talks on jointly developing undersea gas fields. Japan released the captain last weekend, but Beijing then requested an apology - prompting Japan to demand China cover damage to the patrol boats.
The European Union proposed new measures to keep government debt in line last week and earlier outlined measures to better control international banking and financial trade. Several Asian nations have already welcomed such measures. Many of the issues will taken up again when the Group of 20 nations meeting in Seoul, South Korea, on Nov. 11-12.
It does not mean economic discord will be kept at bay this week.
Many Western nations have complained that China keeps its currency undervalued to give its exporters an unfair price advantage on international markets while at the same time China closes off its markets, keeping European businesses out.
“Business leaders are increasingly concerned about the deteriorating business climate for foreign companies in China,” wrote Philippe De Buck, the head of the confederation of European business BusinessEurope.
Wen countered that “Europe’s exports during the crisis have declined to other countries, but seen a substantial increase to China alone ... It may appear that there is competition between Europe and China, but in reality there is more cooperation than competition,” Wen said.
On Wednesday, the EU leaders and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak will sign a free trade pact that will slash billions of dollars in industrial and agricultural duties, despite some countries’ worries that Europe’s auto industry could be hurt by a flood of cheaper cars.
The deal - the first such pact between the EU and an Asian trading partner - will come into force on July 1, 2011.


Date created : 2010-10-04


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