GENEVA, Jan 19 (AFP): The annual meeting of global political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum next week will focus heavily on economic and financial issues, and the accelerating growth of China and India, the organisers said yestersday.
Recently elected German Chancellor Angela Merkel will head an unusually small cast of 15 heads of state or government at the five-day event in the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos starting on January 25.
Chinese Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan, who is also responsible for China's five-year economic plan, will join Merkel at the opening ceremony, forum executive chairman Klaus Schwab said.
"The key issue is the shift of the centre of gravity from the West to the East, the rise of China and India," Schwab told journalists.
Chinese officials will also include the governor of China's central bank, Zhou Xiaochuan, who is due to take part in discussions on the global financial system and foreign exchange issues.
About 60 cabinet ministers from around the world will also be attending, most of them responsible for the economy, finance and trade.
They include French economics and finance minister Thierry Breton, his British counterpart Gordon Brown and Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin.
International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei is also expected in Davos, as well as the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany who have been leading negotiations on Iran's nuclear programme.
No senior Iranian officials were on the guest list. Forum organisers also highlighted a series of discussions on energy and oil, with Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) president for 2006, Edmund Daukoru of Nigeria, outgoing OPEC president and Kuwaiti energy minister Sheikh Ahmad Fahd al-Sabah and other ministers, as well as chiefs of some of the world's biggest oil companies.
The "energy summit" events are expected to include a simulation by participants of an energy crisis caused by a cut in the supply of oil, WEF spokesman Mark Adams said.
A mini-ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation on the sidelines of the Forum has attracted some 20 senior trade and commerce officials, mainly the key actors in fraught talks aimed at eliminating global trade barriers.
They include EU trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, US Trade Representative Rob Portman, Indian commerce minister Kamal Nath and Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim.
The political presence will be largely outstripped by one of the strongest ever corporate casts seen in Davos, including nearly three-quarters of the chief executives or chairpeople of the world's top 100 companies.
More than 700 corporate chiefs are expected in Davos.