Asian nations brace for economic crisis

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Asian countries led by economic powerhouses China and Japan want an expanded regional emergency fund in place next year to better shield the region from the impact of the global financial crisis, officials said Thursday.

Senior finance officials of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and their counterparts from China, Japan and South Korea discussed in a one-day Manila meeting the details of the scheme, which will be finalized by their heads of state during an annual summit in Thailand next month.

The 10-nation ASEAN bloc comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The scheme calls for allowing all ASEAN countries, along with China, Japan and South Korea, to use emergency funds under the so-called Chiang Mai Initiative — an arrangement forged by Asian nations after the 1997 financial crisis to address foreign reserve deficits through bilateral currency swaps, ASEAN official Nathan Sundram told reporters.

During the meeting, financial officials from the Philippines and Thailand also proposed a separate Asian regional facility that could be tapped by any country to deal with short-term liquidity problems, Sundram said.

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