A push to exploit globalization

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DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) – Germany’s chancellor urged the world to exploit the positive aspects of globalization on Wednesday and told international political and business leaders that battling climate change and securing energy supplies had to be among the planet’s key priorities.

Angela Merkel, now also head of the European Union’s revolving presidency and of the G-8 group of industrial nations, spoke out strongly in favor of continued economic development, but warned against conducting business as usual – to the detriment of the world’s poor and unstable nations.

“I know that responsibility grows with economic success,” she told participants in this year’s annual World Economic Forum.

Her keynote address touched on the meeting’s main focus – the world’s economic and political “Shifting Power Equation” as new nations and regions emerge to challenge traditional Western supremacy

Such responsibility carries with it the need “to allow other regions to share in peace and prosperity and to keep our planet livable for coming generations,” she said.

Besides Merkel, some 24 heads of state were due to attend the five-day meeting, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was warmly greeted in 2005 when he and Treasury chief Gordon Brown proposed massive debt relief for third world countries.

But on its first day Wednesday, this year’s meeting was beginning to look more like forums of old, with a heavy emphasis on the issues that its members – most of them businesses – are facing.

“Darfur is currently one of our two or three major concerns at the moment,” U.N. refugee chief Antonio Guterres told The Associated Press at a media luncheon, alluding to that Sudanese region’s refugee crisis. But, he added that the forum was “more absorbed this year with economics than these dramatic events.”

Several participants welcomed President Bush’s call in his State of the Union address for greater domestic oil production, a quadrupling of the nation’s production of alternative fuels over the next decade and the recognition that global climate change is a serious issue.

Ex-U.S. Senator Timothy E. Wirth, a Colorado Democrat who was a former U.S. chief negotiator on the Kyoto Protocol meant to address climate change, said the remarks were short on specifics. But he added that Bush was “understanding finally that this is a serious issue that the U.S. has to address.”

Wirth said that the U.S. needed to provide leadership and acknowledged it would be hard for Bush to do that.

“We will wait for John McCain or Hilary Clinton … or somebody who will be in a very different position in 2009,” he said, referring to the two senators who are considered front-runners for the Republican and Democratic parties in the 2008 election.

Merkel, in her comments, made only one reference to the Bush speech – citing his call for a reduction of carbon emissions – but also named secure energy supplies as one of the world’s priorities.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was interested in “rules anchored in writing and following free market rules,” she said, referring to talks Sunday with Putin that focused on European worries about Moscow’s reliability as an energy supplier. Still, she urged Europe to reduce its energy dependency by strengthening energy research.

“Globalization is a world that frightens many people,” she acknowledged. “I, however, am convinced: … globalization offers the world of today many more chances than risks.”

AP-ES-01-24-07 1630EST

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