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France's President Francois Hollande (2ndL) leaves a bilateral meeting in Vientiane/AFP


Asia-Europe leaders reject trade protectionism

France’s President Francois Hollande (2ndL) leaves a bilateral meeting in Vientiane/AFP

VIENTIANE, Nov 6 – Asian and European leaders on Tuesday renounced protectionism and vowed to promote free trade at a major summit in communist Laos, officials said.

Dozens of leaders converged on the small landlocked nation for the Asia-Europe Meeting, seeking to strengthen trade links between two regions that together account for about half of global economic output.

“The worst thing… as we learned in the 2009 crisis is to adopt protectionist measures. That’s exactly the opposite of what we need,” Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo told reporters, in remarks echoed by Asian leaders.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said: “There’s a commitment to enlarge trade and green technology and fight protectionism.”

Asian nations also pledged support for European efforts to bring its debt crisis under control with austerity measures.

“There is the recognition that growth is important and all the European leaders seem to agree… but you can’t get growth when you are saddled with too much sovereign debt,” Najib said.

“That needs to be worked out so that there will be growth but there might be some pain first.”

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said Asia was optimistic Europe would overcome its debt troubles.

“We have confidence in the European economy’s capacity to recover,” he said.

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