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Reforms pledged in Beijing

Reforms pledged in Beijing

But Asian, European promises on fiscal crisis leave questions

BEIJING - Asian and European leaders have made a big effort at a summit in the Chinese capital to show a united front in fighting the global economic crisis, but analysts question if it will translate into quick, firm action as promised.

The leaders of more than 40 countries emerged from two days of talks Sunday pledging to comprehensively reshape the world's financial systemand that concrete steps would be taken at an emergency meeting in Washington next month.

The bold statements from the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) appeared to be a victory for French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who made it clear his main goal in Beijing was to win Asian support for his ambitious financial reform plans.

Sarkozy is looking to completely reshape the global economic structure to replace the Bretton Woods system that has governed international finance since the end of World War II, with the Washington summit to kick off the process.

"The fact that so quickly all the Asian leaders agreed on the principles that we brought to this meeting is a good demonstration of the possibility of reaching a consensus," European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso told AFP.

But the statements that emerged out of the ASEM forum appeared to be more a show of unity to a frightened public as the global financial crisis deepens, with no actual firm plans presented, according to some economists and analysts.

"My impression is that there's a lot of warm words but there doesn't seem to have been much move towards any firm coordinated action," said

Mark Williams, a London-based economist with Capital Economics research consultancy.

"I'm sceptical as to whether anything more will emerge in Washington in a couple of weeks' time."

The emergency Washington summit on November 15 will gather the Group of 20, comprising the largest industrialised countries and developing economies, to look at ways to end the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression. US President George Bush has insisted the tenets of the free market must remain.

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