Co-chair Ban Ki-moon’s Speech at the Opening of the Asia-Europe Cooperation Dialogue

Speech by Co-chair Ban Ki-moon

Asia-Europe Cooperation Dialogue

Chongqing, China

December 2, 2019


Fellow Delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to join you at this grand gathering of leaders from Asia and Europe. As Chairman of the Boao Forum for Asia, I am delighted to conclude the Forum’s 2019 initiatives with this Cooperation Dialogue in the beautiful and economically robust city of Chongqing. I would like to acknowledge the contributions and hard work of our co-organizers, the European House – Ambrosetti and the Chongqing Municipal Government.

For the past year and a half since the new BFA leadership took office, a number of conferences and initiatives have been held in China, Asia and other parts of the world. Despite the diversity and richness of these events, there is a lasting underlying theme – globalization, free trade, multilateralism and an open world economy. It conforms with the mission and purposes of the Boao Forum for an economically integrated Asia. It is called for by the harsh reality of rising protectionism and unilateralism in today’s world. It is only natural that we reassert the theme again by bringing together leaders from two of the staunchest supporters of these principles – Asia and Europe – as the year nears the end.

Several weeks ago, the Board of Directors of the Boao Forum held a working meeting in Changsha to examine the global economic situation and expressed deep concerns over the world economy. We identified several key factors that threaten our shared future. Protectionism has derailed the good momentum of global trade growth, leaving behind a world economy gloomier by the day. Unilateralist actions throw the established world order back into chaos. Rules and institutions that have proven effective post-WWII are disregarded. A globalized world is being fragmented. Our common future risks eroding by Law of the Jungle.

I am not trying to be sensational. These are real threats that have gradually come true. If we do not act now to reverse the trend, our next generation and our children will suffer. Two months ago, the UN Climate Change Summit in New York calls for decisive actions against a global climate disaster, stressing that this is a race we can win and a race we must win. I see the same urgency and confidence in reversing the trend of unilateralism and protectionism at this critical juncture of human history.

My confidence is reinforced when being with hundreds of government, business and intellectual leaders of Asia and Europe here today. This is the largest single continent of our planet that accounts for 60% of the world’s population and 65% of global GDP. The absolute majority of countries here are both beneficiaries and staunch supporters of multilateralism and an open world economy. If we stand together, firm and united, we can win the race because we represent the majority and the just cause of international cooperation. The majority rules. Justice will prevail.

One year ago, the Boao Forum and the European House – Ambrosetti initiated this Asia-Europe Cooperation Dialogue in Rome. We were encouraged and emboldened by the broad consensus reached between Asian and European leaders, and the follow-up actions thereafter. We agree to carry on the dialogue this year as a valuable platform for in-depth and substantive dialogue on cooperation.

The areas for Asia-Europe cooperation are limitless. First and foremost, a united, vocal and unequivocal voice for multilateralism and an open world economy. One year ago, the ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) Summit reaffirmed support for the rules-based international order, the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. Leaders committed to forge a stronger global partnership between Asia and Europe in face of global challenges such as climate change and sustainable development.

There are many we can do together. Traditional ties in trade, investment and financial cooperation could be stronger and more robust. A number of arrangements have been made to facilitate trade and capital flows. Both have much to offer to the other side. Europe has the largest number of developed economies whereas Asia is mostly a developing world. Different levels of development mean different and mutually complementary advantages. This generates room and potential for cooperation. I encourage governments to take bolder actions in trade liberalization and investment facilitation, both bilateral and multilateral. We need more free trade agreements, not less. We need higher level of economic integration across the continent, not the other way back.

Fresh opportunities keep popping up. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an attempt to revive the ancient Silk Road between Asia and Europe, is now in its sixth year. This is an initiative from Asia but depends on the joint efforts of both Asia and Europe. At a time when globalization and international cooperation are set back, the BRI offers a fresh opportunity for us to work together and go forward. At a time when global public good is in short supply, the BRI proves an effective way to bring all countries along and leave no one behind. Connectivity, both hard and soft, will ensure freer flow of goods, services, capital and people. Eventually, the initiative will turn Asia and Europe into one continent in the economic sense instead of a sheer geographical concept.

Every major economic boom is driven by major technological breakthroughs or revolution. The lacklustre performance of the world economy since the Global Financial Crisis is largely owed to the slowdown of technological advances. While Europe has mostly been a technology leader and Asia a learner and follower, this is beginning to change as Asia is quickly catching up and may even take the lead in some areas. China, India, Japan and South Korea have invested heavily in AI, Big Data, Cloud Computing, Internet of Things (IoT), Smart City, Smart Manufacturing, life sciences, new energies and new materials. Europe, for its part, has put in place strategies to be innovation-driven and technology-leading. There is much for Asia and Europe to learn from each other. By working together and giving play to each other’s advantages, we could be much closer to the next technological revolution in partnership than in isolation.

These are the messages the Boao Forum wishes to convey through this Chongqing Dialogue: a stronger voice for multilateralism and an open world economy; more robust trade, investment and financial ties; closer cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative; collaborative innovation towards the next technological revolution.

I could not find a better place to hold such a conference and get these messages across other than the city of Chongqing. We learned from the Chongqing leadership yesterday how much Chongqing has benefited from integrating with the world economy. For the past two decades, Chongqing has recorded double-digit growth annually. Originally an inland city, Chongqing is now one of the “windows” for opening up to the outside world. With the help of the Belt and Road Initiative, Chongqing now has direct rail freight lines all the way to Europe. Its blueprint is to become not just an industry center and trade hub, but also a Smart City and a Smart Manufacturing powerhouse.

Fellow delegates, that’s all I wish to share with you before the full day of sessions start. I hope that your vision and wisdom will help move Asia-Europe cooperation onto a new level.

Thank you.