VIENTIANE, Laos – China's premier told a summit of Asian and European leaders Monday that major economic institutions need a clear and reliable plan to solve Europe's sovereign debt crisis.
Wen Jiabao, who is also China's top economic official, told the opening session of the two-day Asia-Europe Meeting in Laos that European nations need to balance reform, stability of financial markets and economic recovery.
"The main economic institutions need to roll out a clear and reliable midterm financial plan as early as possible to solve the sovereign debt crisis," Wen said.
Europe's debt crisis is expected to dominate this year's meeting, which brings together leaders or top ministers from almost 50 countries from the two continents. It is seeking ways to strengthen trade and cooperation between the two blocs.
With Europe's economy as a whole in poor health and with chronic and serious problems such as in Greece and Spain, European leaders are hoping that the strong Asian economies can come to their aid.
The European Union is China's biggest trading partner, and Beijing clearly wants to see it recover. Wen's comments show the concern in Beijing that the contagion in Europe could spread farther.
Following Wen, France's President Francois Hollande almost seemed to counter the Chinese appeal by making a plea for everyone to heed the ways of the free market.
"Europe has always trusted the market on condition that the rule of reciprocity is the same for everyone because Europe cannot be a continent that is always in commercial deficit," Hollande said. "We need to have equal exchange. We believe in an open market system, but we ask that everyone makes the same effort with the same clarity."
Other ASEM sessions will cover a broad range of topics from terrorism and sea piracy to human rights and education. Leaders are also having bilateral meetings on the sidelines.
Along with Wen and Hollande, other heavyweights attending are Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Italy's Premier Mario Monti, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Gillard became the first Australian prime minister to meet with a leader of Myanmar since 1984 when she held talks Monday with President Thein Sein. Australia, like many Western nations, has eased sanctions against Myanmar since the new reform-minded, nominally civilian government took power in March 2011.
"We have seen changes happen, and as change has happened, every step of the way we have welcomed that change and we have shifted Australia's foreign policy settings to recognize that change," Gillard told reporters in Vientiane, the Lao capital.
"This meeting is another recognition of that change," she said.
Gillard said there was still more for Myanmar to do as it transitions to democracy.
"I will certainly be saying as I have said here that we have continuing concern about human rights questions for ethnic minority groups," she said ahead of Monday's meeting.
Although the Myanmar government has signed cease-fires with several ethic guerrilla groups, its forces are still fighting the Kachin minority in the country's north. It has also failed to put an end to communal violence in the western state of Rakhine, where clashes in recent months between minority Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Rakhine have left scores dead and more than 100,000 displaced.