TOKYO -- World leaders and experts convened in Tokyo on Monday to discuss the security and economic challenges facing the region, at the 23rd International Conference on The Future of Asia.
Organized by Nikkei Inc., the two-day event is being held at a time when protectionist and exclusionary policies are clouding the global economic outlook. The theme of the conference reflects this: "Globalism at a crossroads - Asia's next move." As Western countries turn inward -- exemplified by Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. -- the dialogue will center on how to advance free trade initiatives such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and foster innovative new businesses.
In addition, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations marks its 50th anniversary this year. Leaders will discuss how the bloc can enhance security cooperation against extremists linked to and inspired by the Islamic State group, while also accelerating economic integration after the creation of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.
Conference participants include Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, Singapore's former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, Malaysia's former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak and World Bank Managing Director Joaquim Levy.
"Inward-looking sentiment has been spreading in the world," said Naotoshi Okada, president and chief executive of Nikkei Inc., in his opening remarks. "To maintain Asia's stability and sustainable development, how should we grapple with surging protectionism? I hope leaders and experts will exchange their candid opinions."