Asian leaders determined to fight pandemic

TOKYO – Financial leaders from China, Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia vowed to redouble their efforts to help the region recover economically from the novel coronavirus and to defend a multilateral system of trade and investment.

“We will remain vigilant to the continued downside risks … We are taking steps to reduce vulnerabilities to these risks and are determined to continue to use all available policy tools to support the sustained recovery,” they said in a joint statement.

“We will remain resolute in our commitment to uphold an open and rule-based multilateral trade and investment system, and strengthen regional integration and cooperation.”

The statement followed the annual meetings of finance ministers and central bank governors from China, Japan, South Korea and the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The meetings were held via teleconference on the sidelines of the annual gathering of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The coronavirus pandemic has triggered deep downturns in regional economies, disrupted global trade and supply chains, and increased market volatility in Asia and beyond, prompting authorities to enact large economic stimulus programs.

Recognizing the risk that unwinding such large stimulus plans could destabilize financial markets, the ministers from Japan, South Korea, China and ASEAN, a group known as ASEAN+3, addressed how they will exit from the crisis measures.

“We will carefully measure the appropriate timing of the exit from these pandemic measures in accordance with the economic and pandemic situation of each member,” the ASEAN+3 leaders said.

Highlighting worries about the risks of a hit to market liquidity, Japan and Malaysia signed on Friday a bilateral currency swap arrangement that enables authorities to swap up to $3 billion of their currencies.

The ASEAN+3 leaders also promised to boost the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization (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.

“We expect the CMIM … to be further strengthened to assist the regional economies dealing with various crisis situations including pandemics,” they said. (Reuters)