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World Economic Forum on East Asia Opens in Singapore
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The World Economic Forum on East Asia opened in Singapore on Sunday, with participation of about 300 business and political leaders from 26 countries to discuss East Asia's agenda under the theme "The Leadership Imperative for an Asian Century."

Speaking at the opening session, President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, said the real issue facing the Asian countries is the rapid economic rise of the region at a time when the global order has undergone enormous swings. "One swing was caused by the rise of China and India to add to the power of Japan in the region," she said, adding that another was the global war on terrorism which has influenced America's role in the world and in Asia.

Noting that the United States is the major political and military player which has been preoccupied in the Middle East, in Iraq, and other crisis areas, Arroyo said, "this has left the perception of a leadership deficit in Asia."

Arroyo said China and Japan have stepped up their game, not ably in coming together to facilitate peace on the Korean Peninsula. However, she said, the real issue is how the region will handle the next 20 or 40 years.

Arroyo also said that as China and India become true political and economic giants, their leadership obligations to their neighbors also increase, separating from their obligations to their own citizens.

Turning to The Philippines' role in the region, Arroyo said the Philippines is currently Chair of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). "During our Summit in January, ASEAN exercised leadership in integration by taking several important steps to create a regional community by 2015," he added.

"The most notable was the declaration on the ASEAN Charter. At a time of uncertainty in the world, we are proud that ASEAN took a bold step forward and not a timid step back," she said.

"The theme of our Summit was 'One Caring and Sharing Community'. We want to advance the sense of community and our shared interests. We want to look after each other in terms of social justice, economic development and common security," Arroyo said.

"I am bullish on Asia, what we have accomplished and what we will achieve in the next 20 years. Our time has come. Asia will be up to the task of leading our people and our region into a more dominant role in world economic and political affairs," the Philippine president said.

During the two-day forum, the participants will discuss the region's industry, political and economic agendas.

The industry agenda will focus on the next generation of East Asian global champions and the impact of cross-border investments.

The economic agenda will consider the durability of East Asian economies to contend with risks such as rising energy prices, pandemics and terrorism, as well as plans for financial and monetary integration.

On the occasion of ASEAN's 40th anniversary, the political agenda will center on the design of its evolving regional architecture and its relationship with important strategic partners.

(Xinhua News Agency June 25, 2007)

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