Tokyo: Leaders of business groups in Asia have called for strengthening economic ties through free trade within the region to foster sustainable growth, while recognizing Asia is playing a major role in the global
economy.

In a statement issued after the second Asian Business Summit in Tokyo on Thursday, 13 major business groups from 11 economies, including China, South Korea and India, voiced support for efforts to conclude such initiatives as the Trans-Pacific Partnership regional free trade negotiations.

"To achieve sustainable economic growth led by the private sector, the Asian business community will proactively make contributions in various areas including promotion of regional economic integration," the statement said.

"We remain committed to fair and free trade and firmly oppose the protectionist approaches," it said.

In the meeting hosted by the Japan Business Federation, the powerful business lobby known as Nippon Keidanren, the participants discussed wide-ranging issues including energy and the environment, disaster response, infrastructure development and financial cooperation.

After receiving the statement, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said in his speech, "Let's work together to support the global economy, with Asia joining forces and with government and the private sector joining forces."

Earlier in the meeting, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba pledged to enhance economic cooperation in the region, saying, "We'd like to promote economic cooperation, recognizing that Asia's domestic demand means Japan's domestic demand."

Keidanren Chairman Hiromasa Yonekura told a news conference that business circles have reaffirmed the view that they need to help create more open business environments.

"To make Asian growth sustainable and balanced, (countries) need to further promote economic cooperation and quickly create a seamless and more open business environment where people, goods and services go back and forth freely," Yonekura said.

Ho Meng Kit, chief executive officer of the Singapore Business Federation, urged Tokyo to make a decision at an early date to join the TPP talks by taking this opportunity to "reposition itself as a global economic leader and add momentum to the TPP process."

"The Singapore Business Federation hopes that the Nippon Keidanren will continue to mobilize support among the Japanese business community for Japan to join the TPP," he said.

Countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam also took part in the summit. The next meeting is scheduled to be held in Thailand next year.

(Agencies)