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Friendship, freedom and trade While most Scandinavian media had their eyes on the American presidential election, European and Asian leaders gathered in Vientiane in Laos for the 9th Asem Summit on 5 - 6 November 2012. By Kim Birkkjaer Lund


or two days Vientiane, the otherwise relaxed capital of Laos, was hosting 11 head of states and 21 heads of government plus ministers, ambassadors and representatives of the press from all parts of the world. The occasion was the 9th Asem summit. Daily life was put on hold, schools and businesses were closed, while conveys of limousines with police escorts drove through streets closed for other traffic. A new 24,900sqm Convention Centre (ICC), funded by the Chinese government with a price tag of 450 million Yang (USD 80 million), has been built for the summit. The Wattay International Airport has been enlarged and 50 luxury villas have been built on the riverbanks of Mekong to accommodate the Asian and European leaders. 102 families have been moved to make space for the Lao and Chinese joint venture which has built the 50 villas as the first step in a USD 180-million plan expected to be completed by 2021.

Sweden’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt

First Chinese - Norwegian contact in two years For Norway and Stoltenberg the 9th Asem summit was a debut. In his speech at the opening ceremony, Stoltenberg praised Asia as a driving force in global economy and underlined Norway’s confidence in the Asian economies by mention, that the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund has invested about 80 billion US dollars in Asian equities and fixed income holdings. Stoltenberg used the summit to meet with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. A meeting which made headline in many media as it was the first official contact between China and Norway in two years. Norway has been put ice by China since the pro-democracy dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded with the Nobel Peace Price in 2010. Stoltenberg also met with the Philippine’s President Benigno S. Aquino. Aquino informed Stoltenberg of the recent signing of the 2012 Framework Agreement on

A new Convention Centre (ICC), funded by the Chinese government 16 ScandAsia.Singapore • December 2012

the Bangsamoro. They furthermore tackled the strengthening of bilateral maritime and labour cooperation. Stoltenberg also met with Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and with Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. At the meeting with Najib, Stoltenberg offered to deliver Norwegian missiles for Royal Malaysian Navy and to provide Malaysia with the latest technology in oil and gas drilling. The Thai Prime Minister and Stoltenberg talked about resuming the negotiation on a free trade agreement between EFTA (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein) and Thailand.

wish to promote mutual ties after a six years hiatus (since the military coup in 2006) of high-level discussions. When meeting with Thein Sein, President of Myanmar, Katainen expressed Finland’s interest in discussing ways of enhancing cooperation, developing the activities of civil society and increasing democratic dialogue in Myanmar. “Based on our own experience, I underlined that inclusive and open education is a key element of a well-functioning, modern society respecting human rights,” said Prime Minister Katainen in Laos.

Education key to modern society

Sweden’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt is a veteran in Asian – European cooperation. The 9th summit in Laos was Carl Bildt’s 5th Summit. Rather unconventional Bildt had chosen to make freedom of the internet to his main agenda at the summit. “Sweden raised the issue of internet freedom and security. Internet freedom has received increasing attention and becoming a topic of discussion in a number of Asian countries. That’s why we believe it is important to put these issues on the agenda,” says Mr. Bildt Carl Bildt has previously mentioned Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand as countries that have more or less elaborate restrictions to the freedom of and the freedom on the net and named China among the world leaders in the area of controlling and restricting the internet. Before Bildt left Vientiane he visited the Scandinavian Bakery and being a diligent twitter he posted a recommendation: “Next time you pass by Vientiane, don’t miss the Scandinavian Bakery!”

The Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen had two busy days in Vientiane. On the sideline he met with Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, South Korean Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Thein Sein, President of Myanmar. South Korea and Finland signed a preliminary deal in May in Finland to expand cooperation in the nuclear energy field and the two PMs used the occasion to discourse further cooperation. Dung and Katainen talked about strengthen the ties of friendship, trade and economic cooperation. Furthermore, they agreed to organize activities to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Vietnam and Finland next year. The Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra assured Katainen of Thailand’s political and economic stability. Both PMs expressed their

Internet freedom

ScandAsia Singapore - December 2012  

December 2012 edition of ScandAsia Singapore for Scandinavian residents from Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland living in Singapore.

ScandAsia Singapore - December 2012  

December 2012 edition of ScandAsia Singapore for Scandinavian residents from Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland living in Singapore.