November 22, 2002

Closer Regional Cooperation Urged in East Asia

Economies in East Asia were urged to forge closer regional networks and cooperative arrangements to boost their competitiveness, a group of experts attending the just-ended East Asia Economic Summit in Hong Kong said Wednesday.

"When we talk about globalization and regional frameworks, we need to think of competitiveness in terms of region too," Chairman of the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority said.

The experts at the summit discussed the performance of East Asia in "The Global Competitiveness Report 2001", a recently released study produced by the World Economic Forum in partnership with Harvard University.

Peter Cornelius, director of the forum's global competitiveness program, said that the shock of the September 11 terrorist attacks had worsened the global economic downturn. As the world faces the storm, the key is to maintain and expand international economic networks and linkages to ensure that economies work efficiently.

As East Asia has suffered a "major loss" of competitiveness due to the resulting higher costs for America to do business with the region and the U.S. companies will refocus outsourcing from East Asia to geographically closer economies, the region must now form deeper trade and investment links among themselves to create an independent growth pole, said Wing Thye Woo, professor of University of California, United States.

Asia would benefit from long-term cooperation with its neighbors, and by doing so, the region will limit political risk and enhance its competitive advantages, John Chen, chairman and executive officer of the U.S.-based Sybase said.

"On the surface, East Asia ranks well in each area, but on deeper examination, the region is not really as competitive as it may first seem," Chen said, outlining the three factors relevant to improve competitiveness. They are the size and strength of the market demand, the level of investment in education and the operating environment for business.

The experts also called on economies in the region to struggle with the challenge of reorganizing and restructuring their workforce and labor market to enable them to reach the next stage of evolution.

( Xinhua News Agency 11/01/2001)

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