LONDON, Mar 7 (AFP): British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Pakistani counterpart Shaukat Aziz said growth and global trade were the way to ease Asian poverty at an international conference on the topic here yesterday.
Blair said it was vital to break the "logjam" at World Trade Organisation discussions aimed at achieving a global trade treaty.
"We can't afford to let the WTO talks fail," he insisted.
The two-day "Asia 2015: Promoting Growth, Ending Poverty" meeting gathered some 150 delegates from the worlds of politics, business and civil society.
Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, Haruhiko Kuroda, President of the Asian Development Bank, and Vo Hong Phuc, the Vietnamese Minister for Planning and Investment were due to attend.
Aziz reckoned the three key factors in reducing Asian poverty were "deregulation, liberalisation and privatisation".
He said: "When we speak of growth, change is the constant", adding that "change is always painful, but we'll have to endure it for the sake of our future".
The WTO as a whole is battling to agree the outlines of a deal on agricultural tariffs by the end of April, and it is hoped that the major players can unblock the contentious negotiations.
Britain's Department for International Development (DFID), which organised the confererence with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, said that around 650 million people in Asia still live on less than one dollar (83 euro cents) a day.
"Though currently two out of three of the world's poorest people live in Asia, by 2015 this could fall to one in three if current trends continue," DFID said in a statement.
"With continued efforts, it is possible to eradicate poverty in Asia in the next generation."
Blair said: "In the past 20 years, 75 per cent of poverty reduction has happened in Asia ... and the number of people (living on) under two dollars a day will halve by 2015."
But the road to get there will be long and hard he warned, insisting success was crucial.
To "tackle poverty is a way to tackle extremism," he said.