GMA Arrives in Switzerland, to Push Fair Trade

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Byline: GENALYN D. KABILING

DAVOS, Switzerland (via PLDT) -- President Arroyo is expected to push for free and fair global trade as well as energy security at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) here today.

The President arrived in the Swiss ski resort last night to join some 2,500 business leaders, politicians and journalists from 90 countries in the global talkfest on politics, economics and social issues.

At the annual gathering with the theme "The Shifting Power of Equation," the President said she would represent the Philippines and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in its "continuing quest for peace, goodwill, security and shared prosperity."

Mrs. Arroyo, one of 24 heads of government participating in WEF this year, is scheduled today to address two WEF sessions about "ASEAN's economic roadmap" and "ASEAN's 40 years - a New Future."

"The meeting among the movers and shakers of the world economy will tackle the power shifts that are now taking place along a continuum of challenges and opportunities for all nations and regional blocs. The Philippines lies in the nexus of one of the fastest growing regional economies, is a vibrant hub for global workers and plays a strategic role in world trade and global security," she said in a statement.

"The Davos agenda dovetails with the ASEAN and East Asian agenda in a way that strives to close the gap in trade, technology, energy security, environmental integrity and prosperity between north and south, east and west -- posting ASEAN as global model for a sharing and caring community," she said.

The Philippines hosted the 12th ASEAN summit early this month where the member-states agreed to step up the fight against terrorism and create a free trade zone by 2015. The regional bloc also vowed to develop nuclear and other alternative energies to lessen dependence on fossil fuels and stave off climate change.

Global warming and security are two dominant issues in the WEF being held in a town that bills itself as Europe's highest ski resort.

The annual meeting, which began last Wednesday, also focused on securing global energy supplies, including the development of alternative energy sources amid the volatile prices of fossil fuels, supply disruptions from Russia and attacks on oil pipelines in Iraq and Nigeria.

More than 200 sessions have centered on climate change, featuring topics to help companies and governments navigate the legalities of implementing policy changes aimed at curbing emissions and pollution and how to make going green profitable.

Security has been tight around the city, with Swiss police, the military and private contractors cordoning off access to the Congress Center, the main venue of the meeting.

With a string of economic gains and victories in the war against terror, the President said she would lead the Philippines in carving a niche in the world as a key player on all counts.

Mrs. Arroyo also promised to seek the best future for Filipinos "in terms of inward investments, jobs at home and abroad, and the goodwill and cooperation that enlarges the space for peace and prosperity on a level playing field."

"This nation faces the sun and the wind is on our back as we all sail forward and reap the fruits of our unity, excellence and enterprise as a people who dare to win the prize of a First World slot in 20 years," she added.

At 1 p.m today (8 p.m. Manila time), the President will make her first WEF engagement and talk about "ASEAN's Economic Roadmap."

She will be joined by Goanpot Asvinvichit, president of the Government Savings Bank of Thailand; Anthony Fernandes, chief executive officer of Air Asia Malaysia; Haruhiko Kuroda, president of the Asian Development Bank in Manila; Yoshihiko Morita, deputy governor and managing director, Japan Bank for International Cooperation; Mari, Pangestu, minister of trade of Indonesia; Govindasamy Rajasekaran, secretary general of Malaysia Trade Union Congress; Truong Dinh Tuyen, minister of trade of Vietnam; and Osamu Watanabew, chairman and chief executive officer, Japan External Trade. …