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 22 Feb 2009

Asean+3 Finance Ministers Meeting
Thailand expects agreement on swap fund expansion

Finance ministers and senior officials from Asian nations gathered in seaside resort Phuket, Thailand on Saturday to try to hammer out a plan to stave off the worst effects of the global economic downturn.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) members were joined by the South Korean and Chinese finance ministers and a senior Japanese official for a special meeting ahead of the annual Asean summit in Thailand next week.

"The meeting is important in the sense that the countries have experience of economic and financial crises," said Thai finance ministry permanent secretary Suparut Kawatkul, referring to the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

> "I do believe that regional cooperation will be a very firm foundation in solving any economic problems," he added.

Top of the agenda is expected to be talks on setting up a multi-billion dollar fund to help countries in the region cope as the financial turmoil hits their key trading partners in Europe and the United States.

Thai Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij has previously said Thailand plans to propose that Asean should expand the eventual fund to $120 billion, up from the initially agreed figure of $80 billion.

"We hope by the end of the meeting we will have a figure," Suparut told reporters gathered for the talks on the southern resort island of Phuket.

Korn will hold bilateral meetings with Chinese Finance Minister Xie Xuren and Japanese Parliamentary Secretary of Finance Shinsuke Suematsu on Saturday, ahead of the group meeting of ministers on Sunday.

Thailand currently holds the rotating chair of Asean, which groups it with Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam, and will host the bloc's summit starting on February 27.

The International Labour Organisation has warned that more than 23 million people in Asia could lose their jobs as the global financial crisis batters the region, while more than 140 million people could be plunged into poverty.




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