ASEAN plus China, Japan, S.Korea vow to boost financial ties amid pandemic

TOKYO (Reuters) -Finance ministers and central bank governors from ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea on Monday vowed to strengthen regional financial cooperation while providing continued support for countries hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: Commuters wearing protective face masks, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, make their way in Tokyo, Japan, April 6, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

In a joint statement issued after a virtual meeting on the sidelines of the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) annual meetings, the ministers pledged to achieve inclusive recovery, preserve long-term fiscal sustainability and maintain financial stability.

Responses to the coronavirus crisis, universal health coverage, climate change, high-quality infrastructure and debt transparency and sustainability in emerging Asia will top the agenda at the ADB gatherings, said Japan’s finance minister, Taro Aso.

“We expect a rebound in 2021 as the recovery gathers momentum and vaccine rollouts allow a gradual opening up of our economies,” a statement read. “The recovery appears uneven across and within countries, and subject to possible elevated risks including the spread of new variants and different paces of vaccination.”

China, Japan and South Korea said they would explore “new initiatives” to strengthen the regional financial safety net at the virtual meeting with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

ASEAN includes Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.

The financial chiefs vowed to use all policy tools to ensure a sustainable economic recovery, and to gradually normalise expansionary policy while mitigating risks of a fiscal cliff.

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Aso told reporters it was significant that the regional financial leaders “reaffirmed the importance of financial cooperation.”

At their last virtual meeting in September, the financial chiefs from Japan, South Korea, China and ASEAN, a group known as ASEAN+3, promised to boost the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralisation (CMIM).

The CMIM plays a crucial role in supporting regional financial stability by allowing the member economies, which include the ASEAN+3 and Hong Kong, to tap currency swap lines to secure currencies in need.

The regional financial leaders also underscored their commitment to backing open and rules-based multilateral trade and investment in the region.

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