ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Talks turn to climate change, energy security
European and Asian leaders buckled down for a second day of talks in Beijing Saturday with climate change and energy security on the agenda after calling for reform of the global financial system, reported AFP.
Leaders from the more than 40 members of the Asia Europe Meeting (Asem) used the first day of the talks in Beijing to discuss the worst economic meltdown since the 1930s, with an appeal to overhaul the world's financial mechanisms.
"Leaders pledged to undertake effective and comprehensive reform of the international monetary and financial systems," the group said in a statement released late Friday.
"They agreed to take quickly appropriate initiatives in this respect, in consultation with all stakeholders and the relevant international financial institutions."
Leaders also called on the International Monetary Fund to "play a critical role" in helping countries most in trouble, should they ask for assistance.
The closed-door talks on Saturday at Beijing's Great Hall of the People were scheduled to turn to sustainable development, energy security, climate change, regional conflicts and cultural heritage.
Bilateral talks on the sidelines of the summit were also expected to include issues including human rights, North Korea's nuclear programme and food security.
But there were few expectations that the two-yearly talks, which have in the past focused on sharing ideas rather than binding agreements, would result in any concrete action.
The summit is due to close at 3.30 pm (0730 GMT), followed by a press conference at which Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and French President Nicolas Sarkozy will speak.
Asem, which was set up in 1996 as a potential counter for Europe to strong US influence in Asia, brings together countries representing about 60 percent of global trade and 60 percent of the world's population.
Before the talks began on Friday, China, South Korea, Japan and 10 Southeast Asian Nations pledged to create an 80-billion-dollar fund that those countries could draw upon to fight off currency speculators.
The announcement of the Asian fund, which had been in the pipeline for months, was the first major co-ordinated action by Asian countries in tackling the global financial crisis since the worst of the turmoil began last month.
At the opening of the two-day gathering, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao made it clear Asia had heard the repeated calls in recent days from Europe for the two regions to work together.
"Overcoming the crisis requires global action and a joint response," Wen told the leaders.
"Asia and Europe are important forces in maintaining financial stability and promoting economic growth. We should join hands to show the world our confidence."
In his opening remarks to the summit, Sarkozy called on Asia to support Europe at a crucial economic meeting next month in the United States where leaders will discuss ways to end the turmoil.
Sarkozy, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, is seeking to overhaul the Bretton Woods system that has governed international finance since the end of World War II.
"When it comes to the Washington summit on November 15, Europe is going to present a united front and we will submit well-considered proposals developed together," the French president said.
"Europe would like Asia to support that effort, so that together on November 15 we can tell the whole world that the causes of this unprecedented crisis will never happen again."
Ahead of next month's talks, the United States has been more cautious, stressing the importance of preserving a commitment to free markets, free enterprise and free trade.