A strong pitch for multilateralism was made by speakers from Africa, European Union and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the 16th edition of Partnership Summit 2010 here on Saturday.

The summit was organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

“The important question in the coming years is if the resumed WTO (World Trade Organisation) negotiations on trade practices would be able to reach a consensus. It is important for regional associations to explore on the ways to forge global partnerships,” Michael Yeoh, the Chief Executive Officer of the Asian Strategic and Leadership Institute, Malaysia said.

According to Tarun Khanna, the Jorge Paulo Lemann professor at Harvard Business School, much of the trade will happen south-south, that is between neighbouring countries in the southern regions.

He said trade will happen between developing countries and developed countries within the same region where the economic gap was smaller and scalable than between developing countries in the south and developed countries of the north.

Khanna said southern nations will have to manage the issues of financial and talent inclusion.

“The organised sector provides only seven percent of the jobs even in fast growing India while 93 percent of the jobs are in the unorganised sector.”

According to Greg Mills of South Africa-based Brenthurst Foundation, African countries have failed to take up access opportunities.

“Countries like Rwanda and Kenya faced immense logistical and infrastructural challenges and need to have mature banking systems and changed policies to eliminate trade barriers,” he said.

Britain’s Member of Parliament and UK-India Business Council chair Patricia Hewitt, pitching for multilateralism, said small developing nations fear of the fallout of multilateral regimes and also are overwhelmed in bilateral deals by “smarter nations”.

Agreeing that European Union (EU) is practicing protectionism abroad while advocating common trade at home, Patricia said Britain led the reform process in the region which allowed African nations and other developing countries better farm trade opportunities.

Saying that regionalism and globalisation are interdependent, ASEAN’s Deputy Secretary General S. Pushpanathan said: “We have learnt from EU what not to do.”

Assuring that ASEAN economic community would be established by 2015, he said the objective is to narrow developmental gaps between the member States.

Noting that ASEAN will have open sky facilities with China by the year end, he hoped it would soon have similar agreement with India.

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