Asia-Europe Business Forum (AEBF)

The Asia-Europe Business Forum (AEBF) is a meeting of business leaders from Asia and Europe, created by the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) to strengthen economic cooperation between the business sectors of the two regions.

At the 1st ASEM Summit held in 1996 in Bangkok, Thailand, the Heads of States and Governments from Asia and Europe endorsed the creation of two ASEM-related bodies in order to foster themes of common interest between the two regions.

The socio-cultural and educational dimension of the dialogue was entrusted to the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), with a permanent base in Singapore. The development of an economic and business dimension gave birth to the Asia-Europe Business Forum (AEBF). The 1st AEBF was convened in Paris (France) in October 1996, under the French chairmanship of Mr. Francois Xavier Ortoli.

The AEBF meetings that followed adhered to the spirit of balance prevailing at the ASEM and have been held alternately in Europe and in Asia on a yearly basis, with a chairmanship from the organising country. Between plenary fora, task forces covering topics of common interest have been active under the leadership of relevant business personalities or economic experts, with the coordination being made by the organizer of the incoming forum.

The AEBF usually consists of two parts: plenary meetings with business leaders and political figures, and working group discussions.

The plenary meetings of the AEBF are high-profile fora with world standards, with great attendance from Asia and Europe. The AEBF held in October 2008 in Beijing, China, gathered 800 participants.The AEBF functions as follows:

  1. The host country is agreed upon on a voluntary basis. Since the 5th ASEM Summit in 2004 in Hanoi, Vietnam, the preference goes to the same host country as the ASEM Summit and the agenda of the AEBF has been adapted back-to-back with the ASEM Summit i.e. in 2006 in Helsinki (Finland), in 2008 Beijing (China), in 2010 Brussels (Belgium), in 2012 Jakarta (Indonesia). The host country designates an outstanding business economic leader to chair the AEBF, as early as during the closing session of the previous Forum, in order to ensure the continuity of the process.
  2. The AEBF is steered by a "Standing Committee" formed with the heads of each national delegation. The Standing Committee is usually convened by the chair at least once a year, in order to stimulate and to coordinate the continuation of the dialogue on topics of common interest and to ensure the success of the forthcoming forum.Along with the enlargement of ASEM membership, and consequently of the AEBF, a "Core Group" of the AEBF has been formed since 2004, based on 10 personalities from the Standing Committee co-opted by their peers, namely 5 in Asia and five in Europe, and ensuring that the AEBF is a collective endeavor.
  3. By design and by raison d'être, the AEBF findings and recommendations are formally delivered to the heads of States and governments at each ASEM summit. This forms a substantive input on economic and business matters to the ASEM work. Press releases are also disseminated to a wider audience.

Some of the themes that are of common interest between Asia and Europe, that have been or will be discussed at the AEBF, include:

  1. Market developments, openings growth prospects in Asia and Europe, coordinated responses to financial and economic crises;
  2. Financial services in a fast moving world;
  3. Sustainability issues on energy strategies, environmental challenges, food security;
  4. Urbanization issues including mobility, management of public services;
  5. Governance for smooth business, trade and investments in Asia and Europe, such as: fair/unfair competition and hurdles, disguised protective measures against national products, rule of law, copy and counterfeiting;
  6. Asian and European contribution to the cross-cultural dialogue and business practices;
  7. Corporate Social Responsibility.

Prepared by:
Dr. Jacques Gravereau
AEBF Core Group Coordinator
1 September 2010