SEOUL?Former US president George W. Bush Wednesday praised Asian economies for leading the global economy out of its slump, while warning against protectionist measures.
"One thing I am certain of is that the Asian economies are leading the world out of the economic duress. That's an amazing statement to make," Bush said in a keynote speech to the World Knowledge Forum in Seoul.
China, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and Thailand were performing well thanks to clever stimulus policies, he said.
"The Asian economies are going to be a powerful engine for growth for the future," Bush said. "I'm optimistic that things are getting better."
But the former leader cautioned against a rise in protectionism.
"In times of economic difficulties... people tend to want to throw up walls and barriers to trade. I'm deeply concerned about protectionism," he said.
"I believe strongly that the best way to not only encourage growth but deal with global poverty is free trade."
Bush repeated his support for US free trade accords with South Korea and Panama, which were both signed under his leadership but have yet to be ratified by Congress.
The former US leader said his nation should stay engaged in Asia.
"Bilateral relations with countries like China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) are central for US security," Bush said.
"I believe that bilateral relations will enable the United States to continue to play an active role in the Far East. I believe in US involvement in the Far East."