ASIAN LEADERS  WANT  DECISIVE  ACTION  TO  SPUR  ECONOMIES

PATTAYA, THIALAND,
APRIL 10, 2009
(STAR) By MARTIN ABBUGAO (AFP) Asian leaders will call for decisive and coordinated action to fight the global economic downturn at a three-day summit starting here Friday.

They will also make strong calls against protectionism, push for a mechanism to detect early signs of a brewing economic crisis and step up preparatory studies on a giant free-trade zone stretching from China to Australia.

Drafts of two summit communiques obtained by AFP showed that the worldwide economic slump will be top of the agenda at the weekend's annual gathering of leaders from the region.

''Mindful of Asia's important role as a center of growth... (we) understand the need to take appropriate action and coordinated measures against the impact of the financial crisis and downturn of the world economy,'' one statement said.

That statement will come Sunday after the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meet counterparts from China, Japan,

South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand under the umbrella of the East Asia Summit.

On Saturday ASEAN leaders will meet with just China, Japan and South Korea and call for ''decisive, coordinated and comprehensive'' policies to counter the downturn, according to a separate draft statement.

While Asian countries have rolled out hefty stimulus measures to help companies and individuals cope with the downturn, these were not enough without a stable financial system that will ensure economic growth, it added.

Asian leaders will also support a 120 billion dollar emergency fund aimed at helping countries fight speculative attacks on their currencies and prevent a destabilization of the financial system, the statements said.

Details of the fund, to be pooled from foreign exchange reserves, are expected to be fleshed out in May when Asian finance ministers meet on the Indonesian island of Bali.

The leaders will also urge the establishment of an ''independent regional surveillance unit'' to monitor signs of a brewing crisis within the region and elsewhere, the draft documents said.

Although Asian banks have been relatively unscathed in the current crisis, the region's export-reliant economies have been hit hard by falling world demand.

Amid these challenges, the Asian leaders will underscore ''the critical importance of standing firm against protectionist and distortionary measures and refraining from raising new barriers,'' the East Asia Summit statement said.

The leaders will urge their ministers to submit the results of studies on the feasibility of an Asia-wide free-trade zone at their next meetings later this year.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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