Hu Jintao urges investment in developing nations

Multinational corporations should help redress imbalances in the world economy by putting a higher priority on investing in developing countries, Chinese President Hu Jintao told an Asia-Pacific business meeting on Friday.

“You are business leaders in the Asia-Pacific,” Hu said in a speech to top executives at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Hanoi. “I call on you to give more priority to exploring business opportunities and expanding market share in developing countries.”

“To narrow the development gap and promote common development requires the active participation of the business community,” he said.

Hu said China will accelerate reforms of its economy to counter its growing and politically contentious trade imbalances.

The Chinese leader is to meet on Sunday with United States President George Bush, who faces growing pressure over China’s surging trade surplus with the United States following the opposition Democratic Party’s recapture of Congress in elections last week.

China’s trade surplus with the United States is projected to jump 12% year-on-year to $228-billion this year. The Chinese Commerce Ministry forecasts that the country’s overall trade surplus will soar to a record $150-billion this year, nearly 50% above the 2005 level.

Hu, who heads China’s ruling Communist Party, also pledged support for other developing nations and urged other governments to boost aid “with no strings attached” to poorer nations.

“The Asia-Pacific region is full of vigour and vitality and has a bright future,” he said. “At the same time we must not lose sight of the fact that while the Asia-Pacific as a whole enjoys economic growth, imbalances remain a major problem.”

Hu exhorted executives to “play an active role in facilitating economic and technical cooperation and common development in our region.”

Given the massive foreign investment in China and the effusive praise of business executives at the “CEO summit” for the economic performances of both China and Vietnam, Hu appeared to be preaching to the converted.

“I have come to deeply admire the excellent leadership of President Hu,” declared Martin Sullivan, president and CEO of insurance giant American International Group.

Vietnam, due to join the World Trade Organisation next month after two decades of market-oriented economic reforms modelled at least partly on China’s own hybrid economy, drew accolades as well.

“Vietnam has demonstrated to the world its capacity for quantum leaps,” said Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer for Microsoft.

“It’s clear that the government has recognised that broad-based reform and economic liberalisation are essential to Vietnam’s integration into the global economy,” Mundie said.

Hu made no direct references to Vietnam in his speech.

But he decried the obstacles all developing countries face, as well as risks from international terrorism, natural disasters, epidemics and other threats.

“Some developing countries have not gained their fair share of benefit from economic globalisation,” Hu said.

“To narrow the development gap ... remains a major challenge facing us,” he said. - Sapa-AP