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ASEM summit opens in Vientiane

Members of the Asia-Europe Meeting kick off a two-day summit in Laos with a dramatic opening ceremony. Laos President and host of the summit, Choumaly Sayasone, welcomed the more than 40 heads of state in attendance. As Pakistan's Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf told the participants, the financial crisis continues to overshadow and undermine economic relations between the two blocs. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PAKISTAN PRIME MINISTER, RAJA PERVAIZ ASHRAF, SAYING: "Both Asia and Europe have gone through the financial crisis during the recent years, it is time for both to learn from these harsh realities." The President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, said stronger links meant more jobs, which are crucial to economic recovery. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT, HERMAN VAN ROMPUY, SAYING: "We are currently negotiating a number of free trade agreements with Asian partners. With some of them we already have, with the aim to increase further market access and job opportunities with mutual benefits." Meetings will include discussions on the global economic situation, the European debt crisis and the slowdown of economies in China and India. ASEM members make up more than half of the world's GDP and four of the five largest economies in the world are located in both regions.

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