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ASEAN ministers meet on economic crisis

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Hundreds of billions of dollars in crisis-fighting funds from G20 and ASEAN discussed at economic meeting in Siem Reap

Photo by: Sara Vat

ASEAN economic ministers meet Tuesday in Siem Reap.

ECONOMIC ministers from the 10 ASEAN-member states met in Siem Reap Monday and Tuesday to formulate economic strategies to alleviate the worst effects of the global economic crisis in the region.

During the two-day Economic Ministers' Retreat, chaired by ASEAN Deputy Secretary General Sundram Pushpanathan and Cambodia's Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh, member states debated how they would absorb a US$370 billion emergency currency swap fund jointly organised by the G20 and ASEAN nations.

"We discussed our strategy to deal with the crisis and help each other, especially ASEAN members who are facing serious problems," said Sok Sopheak, director general of the Ministry of Commerce. He said the fund - made up of $250 billion from the G20 nations and $120 billion from the ASEAN countries, China, Japan and South Korea - would allow member states to borrow money to bolster their economies in the face of the worsening global crisis.

Fighting the downturn

Ministers also discussed reducing the impact of the economic crisis by bringing representatives from the private sector to the table.

The billions in assistance would focus on small and medium-sized enterprises, and companies involved in export and import.

Sok Sopheak said Cambodia's exports had fallen due to the global economic crisis and that the construction and tourism sectors had also seen a drop-off.

"Whenever we understand that we are facing huge problems, we raise the proposal to borrow funds based on criteria that have been stated in the policy," he said.

We discussed our strategy to deal with the crisis and help each other.

Mao Thora, secretary of state at the Minsitry of Commerce, said ASEAN trade ministers would also put together a long-term plan to adopt the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint, a European Union-style system combining a common currency and unrestricted trade between member states.

But he said that ASEAN should concentrated on freeing up the flow of people and goods between states rather than breaking down borders altogether.

Nguon Meng Tech, director general of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, agreed that the private sector would benefit from the development of closer trade and investment links between ASEAN countries.

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