Tony Blair speaks during a seminar at WTTC Asia Summit in Seoul.
Blair warns against Syria inaction
Seoul, September 10, 2013
From Sree Bhat in Seoul
Inaction over Syria will have serious consequences for the Middle East and the whole world, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has warned.
Blair made the comments yesterday during a major tourism event being held in Seoul, South Korea, in the presence of more than 500 leading travel and tourism business leaders.
Speaking at a seminar titled ‘Leadership Challenges’ at the first World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Asia Summit, he said the US and its allies faced “difficult decisions” over Syria, more so with Iran and North Korea waiting and watching keenly on the sidelines.
However, Blair said he believed that the world had to send a powerful message to the Syrian government that the use of chemical weapons in its war against the rebels would not be tolerated.
Blair said President Barack Obama’s dilemma was quite understandable, given the history of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he was optimistic that Congress would “make the right decision”.
Blair, who is also the Special Envoy of the Middle East Quartet, said the Middle East was in a state of flux with the region going through a long period of transition, but said that the old order would no longer be tolerated by people.
The Quartet, set up in 2002, consists of the United Nations, the European Union, the US and Russia. Its mandate is to help mediate Middle East peace negotiations.
Blair said that the Middle East’s unique mix of religion and politics was hindering efforts towards peace and called for a more open-minded approach.
“People are not going to agree on the past, but they can work on a framework for the future so there is better tomorrow. The process of peace can take a long time. We need patience and must never give up, even if we often do feel helpless.”
On Egypt, Blair said it is important to support the new government and help bring peace to the country.
He said leaders today faced more challenges than ever and warned that indecisive leadership could prove costly. Leaders, he said, “must go by their instinct and do what is right”.
Blair also spoke on the West’s changing role in tourism at the two-day summit, which was inaugurated by WTTC president David Scowsill in the presence of South Korean Prime Minister Hong-Won Chung.
The summit is looking at the best ways to exploit the huge projected growth in tourism throughout Asia.
Blair said the West needed to find ways to maintain its market share of the global travel and tourism industry.
“As this power shifts to the East, the West is going to have to discover a new partnership with the East. The US remains for now the most powerful country but it is likely in time China will become the most powerful country in the world.”
He emphasised the need for all governments to embrace the travel and tourism industry as a force for good – not just economic growth: “It is an industry that can help bring about more peace and understanding. Travel is important because then you see what people have in common.”
Globally, the future continues to look positive for travel and tourism with the WTTC predicting the industry will grow 3 per cent this year, contribute $6.8 trillion in revenues or 9 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP), employ more than 266 million people and account for one in every 11 jobs on the planet.
Longer term, the prospects are even brighter, with the industry expected to grow an average 4.4 per cent per annum, exceeding forecasts in other major sectors such as manufacturing, retail and finance.
Meanwhile, Scowsill said that every effort must be made to warn national governments that new or higher taxes on tourism would have a negative effect on their economies.
Revealing how Asia’s travel and tourism sector is forecast to grow six per cent per annum over the coming decade, Scowsill said: “It is no accident that we are here for our first Asia Summit. Of the 70 million new jobs travel and tourism will stimulate globally by 2023, two thirds will be in Asia.
“This phenomenal growth will be driven by increasing wealth among Asia’s middle classes, particularly in China. The United Nations describe it as a historic shift, the likes of which has not been seen for 150 years. Asia’s middle class is forecast to triple to 1.7 billion by 2020.”
Scowsill hit out at the UK government for its airline passenger duty claiming that it was destroying the UK’s GDP by around $6.3 billion per annum while costing some 90,000 jobs. “Taxing the tourist does not lead to positive economic growth – in fact it leads to the opposite,” he said.- TradeArabia News Service