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Economics, Trade to Feature in Asia-Europe Summit

Lao police officials stand next to flags of various nations on display at Wattay International Airport in Vientiane, Laos, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012.
The strengthening of economic ties between Asia and Europe, along with regional stability and security, will be featured in talks this week when leaders of 49 countries hold a two-day summit in Vientiane, Laos.

The global economy is to take center stage at the Asia-Europe summit in the Lao capital of Vientiane, as troubled European economies look to benefit from Asia’s rapid economic growth of recent years.

The ninth ASEM summit, starting Monday, brings together nearly 50 leaders from Asia and Europe against a backdrop of struggling European countries faced with recession and debt.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters Sunday in Bangkok the meeting’s aim is to build stronger economic ties in talks that will also feature the challenges of stability and regional security.

“Our main objective for this ASEM summit is the consolidation of the potential dialogue with our partners from Asia. We believe Asia is becoming more important every day. In terms of economic development there is immense potential in the relationship between Europe and Asia," he said. "And we want to discuss these issues with our Asia friends. Namely, what can we do together facing global challenges?”

Thailand played host to the first ASEM summit in 1996 in talks focused on a political dialogue, security and economic issues, as well as social developments, such as education.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra says growing collaboration between the two regions will also be discussed.

“Collaboration between Asia and Europe; I think this [ASEM] is a good mechanism and right time to use this venue to discuss collaboration. We see this as an opportunity, if we can sit down and discuss together. We believe that we will use this mechanism to drive the growth of trade and investment," she said.

Prime Minister Yingluck said the issues of human rights and human trafficking also concern overall regional security.

Human-rights and environmental groups are looking to press their cases on the leaders, ranging from conflicts over land to protests on the development of hydropower dams in Laos.

Meanwhile, Thailand is in talks with the European Union for a Partnership Cooperation Agreement and is preparing for negotiations on a Thai-EU free-trade accord.