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Asem 2 Saturday, 4 April, 1998, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
EU to send business missions to Asia
British PM Tony Blair closed the summit on an optimistic note
British PM Tony Blair closed the summit on an optimistic note
The British Prime Minister Tony Blair has announced EU plans to send high-level business missions to Asia to demonstrate faith in the economic future of the region.

Speaking at the close of the the Asem summit meeting in London on Saturday he said, "Our aim was to show concern and determination, and boost the crucial task of restoring confidence in the region.

"The message was also intended to show how painful changes can increase strength and stability in the longer term."

The talks on Friday produced a financial statement, agreed by the leaders of the 26 countries, expressing "confidence that with full implementation of the necessary policy reforms and strong mutual support, financial stability would be restored".

The leaders said "strong economic fundamentals would enable Asia's impressive growth performance to continue over the medium term".

They expressed their "common resolve" to resist protectionist measures and maintain at least current levels of market access.

"Speculation-induced instability" was blamed for making the crisis worse.

Europe opens arms to Asia

European leaders Friday also pledged to keep their markets open to Asian goods which have become much cheaper due to the collapse of Asian currencies.

In advance of the summit Asian leaders had been seeking reassurance that Europe would not abandon interest in the region due to its economic troubles.

BBC correspondents say this has been amply demonstrated, though additional economic aid on offer is meagre.

"If Asia is ailing now, then Europe will be ailing tomorrow," German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said at the closing news conference.

A $25m World Bank trust fund to offer Asia technical support for IMF-inspired economic restructuring has been established, with an initial $5m pledge from the UK.

A Centre for Financial Restructuring has also been established.

Wider agenda

While proceedings were "dominated" by the economic agenda, Blair said that "crime, the environment, welfare of children and fundamental rights were all discussed."

Proposals for increasing educational links between Europe and Asia were ratified, along with joint campaigns against narcotics and child prostitution.

A decision on the expansion of ASEM was postponed until the next meeting in Seoul in two years because there was no consensus on the issue.

India, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand have been knocking on Asem's doors since the forum was first set up two years ago.

Asian and European foreign ministers will meet in Germany next year to prepare for the next talks and a "Vision Group" of senior officials, academics and businessmen will be formed to examine ways of developing ASEM.

Human rights soft-pedalled

Meanwhile, a demonstration has been organised in London of supporters from 10 organisations to call on leaders at the conference to "put people first".

Human rights activists complain that the summit has failed to take account of human rights abuses in some Asian countries, notably China and Indonesia.

There was no direct mention of human rights in the final communique.

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BBC News
British PM Tony Blair's closing speech (5'04")
BBC News
Alistair Barr of the London Business School on Asia's economic prospects (4'38")
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