» World Economic Forum

Easy access key to further Asia-driven world growth

Publication Date : 01-06-2012


Global business leaders broadly agreed yesterday that they would continue to pour investment into Asia, as the region is the world's hope for current and future growth. They expected that closer connectivity established at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia being held in Bangkok would help eliminate barriers to trade and investment to promote global growth.

Action to link trade and investment should be taken after the meeting, while non-tariff and tariff barriers should be eliminated to create real market liberalisation for private enterprises and promote more investment, they said.

Gerard Mestrallet, chairman and chief executive officer of France's GDF Suez, said Asia could become one of the pillars of the global economy. The company plans to invest US$12 billion in the region and is confident it will experience more growth due to strong economic expansion in the region.

To promote the growth of the region, he urged closer integration among all nations. Mestrallet said investment in the energy sector should be emphasised, as it a key industry to support the growth of every other industry.

He said rapid development of Asean would bring not only opportunities, but also burdens for each government as they would have to invest in infrastructure development.

For instance, electricity demand in Asean will increase by 300,000 megawatts by 2022, meaning that member states must invest another $300 billion to increase the supply of power in the region.

To help relieve the burden on governments, he said they might need to consider allowing private enterprises to invest in infrastructure and the electricity industry in the future.

Pailin Chuchottaworn, president and CEO of PTT, said East Asia was the only region that had shown strong economic growth amid a slowdown in Western countries.

Regional growth will help bring back global growth, he said, adding that the meeting's focus on connectivity would help that process.

Closer cooperation on promoting energy-sector development has been achieved at the WEF summit, he said. An Asian pipeline project and a power grid to connect the electricity systems of Asean nations had been initiated. Also, the meeting discussed how to increase the social responsibility of energy businesses. Involved businesses have agreed to draft a plan to increase accessing to energy usage for all, he said.

Helene Gayle, president and CEO of CARE USA, said Asian economies were linked. With the rapid and strong growth of the region, this linkage would help lessen the impact of the financial crunch outside the region, she said.

She said that not only could nations enhance connectivity, but civil-society groups should also form bridges to remove non-tariff barriers.

Masami Yamamoto, president and representative director of Japan's Fujitsu, stated that Asia would continue as a production base for the company. Production in the Asia region will be a key economic driver of growth in this and other regions, he said.

"Because of high risk caused by the global economic crisis, the closer connectivity of Asia and other regions will help promote real investment and global development," he said.

Malvinder Singh, executive chairman of India's Fortis Healthcare, said that over the next few decades, Asia would come to be a centre of investment and create sustainable growth for the global economy. He said that not only would Asia be a centre of manufacturing and supply to other part of the world, the region would also be a major supplier for the service and healthcare industries. He said nobody could refuse to engage with Asia.

His company will continue to invest in the region and support the growth of the industry, Singh said.

Gerald Lawless, executive chairman of Jumeirah Group of the United Arab Emirates, said concrete action on connectivity should occur after the meeting. For the service sector, he urged each nation to create a common visa platform, as well as create closer links on air transport.


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