Boao Forum for Asia to carry forward multilateralism, promote cooperation

By Zhang Mengxu, Zhang Penghui, Chen Shangwen, People’s Daily

The Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Annual Conference 2023 held its first press conference on March 28, on which the “Asian Economic Outlook and Integration Progress Annual Report 2023” and the “Sustainable Development: Asia and the World Annual Report 2023” were officially released.

Noting that uncertainty remains a prominent character of today’s world, BFA Secretary General Li Baodong said that the annual conference hopes to carry forward true multilateralism, practice open regionalism, explore certainty in an uncertain world and promote solidarity and cooperation among countries to better meet challenges through discussions.

The recovery of the world economy remains weak at present, which makes for a volatile external environment for Asia’s economic growth. However, as an important engine driving global economic growth, Asia is speeding up its recovery this year and becoming a reliable driver of world growth and an important pillar for multilateralism.

According to the Sustainable Development: Asia and the World Annual Report 2023, the weighted real GDP growth rate of Asia in 2023 is estimated to be 4.5 percent, an increase from 4.2 percent in 2022.

The International Monetary Fund predicted that China and India alone would contribute about half of the world’s growth this year. For every percentage point of higher growth in China, activity in other economies rises on average by 0.3 percentage point.

Anil Kishora, Vice-President and Chief Risk Officer of the New Development Bank, believes that the Asia-Pacific region, which accounts for 1/3 of the world’s population, over 60 percent of the global economy and close to half of global trade, is the most dynamic growth belt in the world.

As the manufacturing center of the world, the region will play a more important role in driving global growth and safeguarding stable industrial and supply chains , he said.

Lee Hyuk-joon, President of Hyundai Motor Group (China) told People’s Daily that China, as the second largest economy in the world, is a stabilizer and booster for the world economy, adding that China is the world’s largest consumption market, and the upgrading of this market will exert positive impacts on global trade and economic growth. As a major manufacturing center, China will also create more opportunities for the manufacturing industry of other countries, he noted.

The Asian Economic Outlook and Integration Progress Annual Report 2023 said Asia has played a more proactive and leading role in global macroeconomic policy coordination, and the world has entered the “Asian Moment” for global economic governance.

Zhang Yuyan, director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the world today is facing uncertainties, but peace and development still remain the general trend. He believes China and Asia will make the world a more certain place.

Asia’s regional economic integration continues advancing despite the rise of geopolitical conflicts and anti-globalization. Asia is still a staunch supporter of multilateralism and an active promoter of global economic governance.

Lin Guijun, former vice president of China’s University of International Business and Economics (UIBE), told People’s Daily that most major economies in Asia had seen increasing dependence on Asian production between 2001 and 2021, which indicated a higher level of regional economic integration.

He said digital economy is one of the two engines driving Asia’s regional economic integration. According to him, the share of Asia’s digital service trade in the world has steadily expanded, reaching 25.6 percent in 2021. The other engine, according to Lin, is the demand of Asian countries to jointly cope with climate change and tackle environmental issues.

Institutional opening up mechanisms have been constantly releasing dividends since the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) took effect a year ago.

Sang Baichuan, dean of UIBE’s Institute of International Economy, said the RCEP has effectively lowered the cost of trade and investment among member countries, and there has been a higher level of economic integration.

As the world’s largest regional free trade agreement, the RCEP will continue releasing its dividends, promoting the integration of industrial and supply chains among member countries and becoming an important engine driving economic growth in Asia and the world.

Development is of important significance for poverty elimination, promoting economic and social progress and advancing regional economic integration in Asia. However, the sustainable development of the world is threatened. The official assistance provided by the developed world is less than half of what it has promised, and the scale of aid from a few countries is even shrinking. Challenges are ahead against realizing the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

This year marks the third year for the BFA to release the Sustainable Development: Asia and the World Annual Report. The report calls on Asian countries to take immediate actions to cope with the crisis threatening sustainable development.

All parties relevant need to make huge efforts to restore peace and narrow divides, governments and the society should take joint actions to mobilize resources and build a global partnership for development, Li said.

China proposed the Global Development Initiative in September 2021, and in less than a year, the High-level Dialogue on Global Development was held. Asian countries are working with other countries in the world to make development a priority on the international cooperation agenda, forge a united, equal, balanced and inclusive global development partnership, and bring the world back to the track of achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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