Given their different social and economic backgrounds, it will take Asian countries over 50 years to achieve economic integration, said Long Yongtu, secretary-general of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA).
"Unlike European Union members, Asian countries have very different historical and cultural backgrounds, economic development and value systems," said Long, at a briefing for the 6th BFA on Friday in Beijing.
According to Long, instead of seeking instant unification of currency policies, which often symbolizes economic integration, Asian countries should first increase cooperation on infrastructure construction and the exchange of human resources.
Long said the free trade area set up by China and East Asian countries is the first step toward integration.
The BFA is the only event that establishes a dialogue between developing countries in Asia, and has played a unique role in facilitating this integration, according to Long.
The 6th BFA, to be held from April 20 to April 22 on the island province of Hainan, has invited more corporate and government representatives from South Asia and Central Asia than in previous years.
For instance, the manufacturing giant Tata Group from India has been invited to participate in the forum for the first time.
"East Asia alone cannot sustain the overall development of the whole Asian region," Long said. He said the upcoming forum will emphasize innovation and sustainable development, in line with its theme, "Asia: Searching for a Win-Win".
Topics will include sustainable social and economic development in Asia, the impact of growth and innovation on specific industries, corporate social responsibility and green agendas.
(China Daily April 17, 2007)