Asian finance ministers meet to combat global crisis

February 22nd, 2009 - 11:48 am ICT by IANS  

Phuket (Thailand), Feb 22 (DPA) Finance ministers from South-East and East Asia met Sunday on the Thai tourist island of Phuket to try to come up with joint measures to tackle the effects on the region of the global economic slide.
Although institutional investors in East Asia generally stayed away from the kind of financial instruments that led to the current economic crisis in the West, the countries of the region have already experienced dramatic falls in volumes of exports to the West, with further drops expected.

The main topic of the day’s discussions at the Sheraton Resort in Phuket, 550 km south of Bangkok, is expected to be the establishment of a regional rescue fund of 80 to 120 billion dollars.

Also likely to be discussed is expansion of the Chiangmai Initiative of 2000, which paved the way for a slew of bilateral currency swap agreements between the members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) plus their three main Asian economic partners - China, Japan and South Korea.

The ministers gathered on Phuket are from Thailand - the current chair of ASEAN - Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Vietnam and China, Japan and South Korea.

Japan, whose new minister has only just got his feet under the desk after his predecessor quit amid accusations that he was drunk in public, has sent a senior finance ministry official, while Singapore and Cambodia were unrepresented at the regional meeting.

Malaysian Finance minister Najib Tun Razak caused a minor diplomatic flurry Saturday when it was discovered that his five bodyguards had smuggled their automatic weapons into Thailand, according to a Thai source working with the visiting delegates, who asked to remain anonymous.

In the interests of regional harmony, however, the incident was quietly swept under the carpet.

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