About 300 global leaders from business, government and academia gathered Thursday in Tokyo to kick off a two-day meeting of the World Economic Forum on East Asia to discuss development and the environment as well as regional economic integration.

It is the first time the organizer of the World Economic Forum, held in Davos, Switzerland, has organized a regional conference in Japan. The conference is being held at a hotel in Tokyo’s Minato Ward.

At a news conference to open the meeting, Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, praised the first gathering in Japan of representatives from more than 30 economies.

Cochairs of the Tokyo meeting include Henry McKinnell, chairman and chief executive officer of U.S. pharmaceutical firm Pfizer; Kunio Nakamura, president of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.; Nandan Nilekani, president and CEO of Infosys Technologies in India; and Yun Jong Yong, vice chairman and CEO of Samsung Electronics.

“Asia is achieving major (economic) development and Japan’s economy is recovering. In this situation, I’m grateful for the opportunity for people from a range of positions to come together to have discussions on the development and stability of Asia,” said Kakutaro Kitashiro, chairman of major business lobby Keizai Doyukai, which teamed up with the Davos group to host the meetings.

“I expect Japan to contribute to the development of Asia through discussions on issues such as (Japan’s) environment technology and manufacturing, and (its problems of) the declining birthrate, aging population and financial condition.”

Trade minister Toshihiro Nikai told a panel session, called Asia’s Growth Model, that Japan will provide Asia with its energy-saving and environment technologies to help solve the problems of pollution and the widening disparity in wealth.

“It is important for Asia to collaborate as a whole and work hard as one group,” Nikai reckoned. “Neighboring countries are facing difficult problems in various aspects now. But to grow the (regional) economy, (they need) to create a foundation for all of Asia to work hard toward a (common) goal.”

India action plan

Japan and India unveiled an action plan Thursday to help promote investment in the emerging economic power by small and medium-size Japanese companies through provision of information and business-matching opportunities with local firms.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshihiro Nikai and Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath introduced the plan in a joint statement issued after their meeting.

The two have held talks on the sidelines of the two-day World Economic Forum on East Asia, which began Thursday in Tokyo.

Under the plan, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will set up a consultation service point called India New Window to offer information on Japanese companies interested in doing business in India.

The government-backed Japan External Trade Organization will open its third office in India next month in Bangalore to help Japanese businesses in the country, according to the paper. JETRO already has offices in New Delhi and Bombay.

JETRO also will open a specialized business support center in its New Delhi office and send investment advisers from Japan.

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