The last half-century has been witness to remarkable progress made in economic and social development by Asian countries. As a result, Asia's influence in international and regional affairs has been increasing steadily. Thanks to the economic take-off in East Asia over the past two decades, which is perceived by the world as "the East Asian miracle," the overall Asian economy has developed rapidly. This has made Asia prominent among the regions in the world, which have undergone the most dynamic economic development. Although Asia has suffered a lot from the financial crisis at the end of the twentieth century, the Asia economies are now back on a path of recovery and economic stability due to their capacity for self-adjustment and reform.
On account of the opening policy pursued by most Asian countries, the trade and investment links between them have been increasingly strengthened. Various forms of bilateral, regional, sub-regional, and trans-regional cooperation have gradually unfolded. Collaboration and exchanges in the fields of business, finance, science and technology, transportation, culture and the media are constantly increasing. East Asian cooperation (10+3) has already entered into a substantive stage. The economic integration within ASEAN, and the cooperation in the Lancang-Mekong River basin and in the Tumen River basin are underway. Trans-regional cooperation in the frameworks of ASEM and East Asia-Latin America Forum as well as APEC is also moving forward. It can be predicted that the prospects of Asian economic development and cooperation will be very bright.
In the new century, the trend of economic globalization and regionalization continues to develop, European economic integration process picks up speed and North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) moves ahead. Under such a situation, Asian countries are promised great opportunities and are confronted with many severe challenges, predictable and unpredictable. It requires the Asian countries to strengthen the cooperation with other parts of the world as well as the collaboration and exchanges among themselves. It is now a common task for them to seek the way to face the challenges brought about by globalization, to sustain the healthy growth of the economy and strengthen their coordination and cooperation.
Although Asian countries have participated in many international conferences and organizations such as APEC and PECC, Asia as a whole lacks a forum, led by Asians and guided from perspectives of Asian interests and views, provides opportunity to exclusively discuss the Asia issues and aims at enhancing cooperation and exchanges among Asian countries, and between Asian countries and other parts of the world. Against this backdrop, in September 1998, former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, former Japanese Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa and former Filipino President Fidel V. Ramos put forward the proposal to establish an Asian Forum, similar to the World Economic Forum headquartered in Davos.
The idea, once it was put forward, was warmly received by the related Asian countries. On October 8, 1999, Hu Jintao, then vice Chinese president, met with Fidel V. Ramos and Bob Hawke who came to China especially for the Asian Forum. After the briefing by initiators of the conceived forum, Hu Jintao said that the Chinese government always supports and attaches importance to multi-level, multi-channel and multi-type of regional cooperation and dialogue, the establishment of the forum would be conducive to promoting understanding, trust and cooperation among the countries of the region. The Chinese government would study the idea prudently and positively and would provide all necessary support and cooperation. Meanwhile, Hu Jintao emphasized that since the recognition, understanding and support of the related governments was vital to the establishment of the forum, China would wished to get itself further acquainted with the responses of other countries on this issue. It was followed successively with positive responses of the 25 countries in Asia.
Against this backdrop, the Inauguration Ceremony of the BFA was held on Feb. 26-27, 2001 in Boao, Hainan Province, China. Former leaders from 26 countries including Yasuhiro Nakasone, former prime minister of Japan, Fidel V. Ramos, former president of the Philippines, Bob Hawke, former prime minister of Australia, Sergey Terechshenko, former prime minister of Kazakhstan, Punsalmaa Ochirbat, former president of Mongolia, attended the ceremony. Then Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Mahathir bin Mohammad, prime minister of Malaysia, Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, the late king of Nepal, Nguyen Manh Cam, deputy prime minister of Vietnam also graced the occasion by addressing the ceremony. The BFA was officially launched at the ceremony. The Declaration of the BFA and Guidelines of the BFA Charter were adopted during the ceremony. The inauguration was a great success and gained wide spread concern from the international community.
(Xinhua News Agency April 19, 2004)