ASEAN opens annual summit in Cebu | india | Hindustan Times
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ASEAN opens annual summit in Cebu

india Updated: Jan 13, 2007 09:43 IST
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Southeast Asian leaders began their annual summit in Cebu on Saturday behind closed doors and heavy security, looking to overhaul how their nations handle terrorism, free trade - and each other.

Postponed by the host Philippines last month amid warnings of an imminent terror attack, the gathering is only the 12th summit in the 40-year history of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

But with the bloc facing economic pressure from heavyweights China and India, and the twin shadows of terrorism and poverty, leaders are looking to push through an ambitious agenda they hope can transform the region.

Managing a stiff wave for the cameras and a handshake with their host, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, the leaders in their matching white short-sleeved shirts headed in for a day of talks on ASEAN's future.

"We want to advance the sense of community and our shared interests - to look after each other in terms of social justice, economic development and common security," she said.

The 10-nation bloc has already agreed to bring forward the target date for a free-trade zone to 2015, looking to liberalise the movement of goods and capital across a region that accounts for one-sixth of the world's population.

The bloc will meet on Sunday and Monday with the leaders of India, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will reach Cebu on Saturday.

It will also sign its first-ever convention on fighting terrorism, including provisions to make it easier to track suspects and money, share intelligence, and extradite wanted militants.

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