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Asean learns a lot from crisis in Europe, US

MANADO, Indonesia, Aug 12 (Bernama) -- The Association of Southeast Asia Nations (Asean) learns a lot from debt crisis in Europe and the United States, looking ways to avoid such disaster, a high-ranking official at the Asean Secretariat told Xinhua news agency in an exclusive interview on the side lines of Asean Ministers Meeting in North Sulawesi provincial capital city of Manado.

Deputy Secretary-General of Asean for Asean Economic Community Sundram Pushpanathan said that in term of the current situation in Europe, Asean has agreed to stay vigilant.

"After experiencing two crises in the region (in the past), ASEAN recognizes the importance of coordination of policies and keeping each other informed, so that the region stays stable in the situation. And of course, I think that from the EU, we have learned a lot of lesson," he said.

According to Pushpanathan, EU is a good example of integration for the region in terms of economic community.

However, Pushpanathan said that Asean integration is very different from European Union.

"We are not looking at EU style. We are using our free trade arrangement as a mean to come together, looking at financial integration as part of it. So our integration is very different with EU," he said.

In Asean's sense, he added, member countries need to coordinate their policies very closely.

"We need to look at those gabs and we need to address narrowing those gabs. How do we help less developing countries? How do we promote trade to learn more within Asean and with our partners?" Pushpanathan said.

He also said that Asean needs to really look at development in the U.S. following the downgrading of the country's debt rating as the bloc's economy is quite integrated with the United States.

But in the same time, he said, Asean has to look at its own strategy to mitigate whatever impact from situation in the US.

"Asean is all in integration. We are doing very well in intra-Asean trade that (currently) grows 25 percent. We are also doing very well in terms of intra-Asean investment, intra-Asean tourism," he said.

The question is, he said, how Asean leverages on this.

"intra-Asean integration is one component to mitigate the impact. The second would be at our trade and investment relation with some of key partners in the regions, including China, Japan, (South) Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand," he said.

He also said Asean is looking at wider East Asia framework for trade.

"How can we use the current Asean plus 1 and FTAs with five partners into creating a wider East Asia trade arrangement under East Asia Summit process? That would create one of the world's largest economic spaces for business," he said.


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