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The Pacific Basin Economic Council will convene for a three-day meeting starting Sunday in Tokyo, bringing together business leaders from 20 Asia-Pacific economies.

Under the theme “Regional Vitality in the 21st Century,” participants in the 34th International General Meeting of PBEC, a multinational business organization, will discuss economic challenges that the region faces.

Asia is being counted on to serve as a major engine for the world economy in the new century. But some Asian economies are still struggling to recover from the 1997 financial crisis, with the recent slowdown of the U.S. economy dealing a blow to their still fragile recovery.

Against such a backdrop, this year’s convention will focus on how businesses in the Asia-Pacific region can cope with new challenges arising with ongoing globalization, according to the organizing committee.

About 800 business leaders as well as government officials and representatives from international economic organizations are expected to attend the gathering.

Founded in Honolulu in 1967 by international business leaders, PBEC aims to reinforce economic ties and contribute to the economic and social development of the Asia-Pacific region.

Kosaku Inaba, chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has been serving as chairman of the PBEC since March 2000. Minoru Murofushi, chairman of Itochu Corp., chairs the organizing committee for the IGM meeting in Tokyo.

Since its inception, the annual conference has gained a reputation for providing opportunities to business leaders as well as government officials to network.

In an attempt to deepen mutual understanding between businesspeople and governments, the Asia-Pacific Leaders Forum will be set up on Sunday. At the forum, government ministers from Malaysia, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines — including former Philippine President Fidel Ramos — will give keynote speeches.

Palm-size personal computers will be distributed to participants to inform them of programs and necessary information, enhance their communications through e-mail and reduce paper, said Tomoaki Oigawa, a spokesman for the organizing committee.

At several plenary and concurrent round table sessions, participants will debate up-to-date issues, including corporate responsibility for management transparency, the environment, telecommunications developments, biotechnology and ways to revitalize Asia’s economy.

Session speakers include Dean O’Hare, chairman and chief executive officer of Chubb Corp., Sir John Bond, group chairman of HSBC Holdings PLC, Hajime Sasaki, chairman of NEC Corp., and Keiji Tachikawa, president and CEO of NTT DoCoMo Inc. Taro Aso, state minister for economic and fiscal affairs, will deliver a speech at a luncheon meeting Monday.

On Tuesday, the final day of the event, business leaders will adopt policy statements and resolutions, which will be later distributed to governments and relevant international organizations.

PBEC is presently comprised of more than 1,100 corporate members in 20 economies — Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore and the United States.

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