Japan moving closer to Asean
NEW DELHI - Japan says it will increase financial cooperation with Southeast Asian nations, support their bond markets and make it easier for Japanese companies to raise funds in local currencies.
- Published: 4/05/2013 at 08:03 PM
- Newspaper section: topstories
Tokyo will also consider reviving emergency monetary arrangements with Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, the finance ministry said after a meeting of finance ministers and central bankers from Japan and Asean near New Delhi on Friday.
Japan is strengthening ties with countries in the region as it tries to revive growth and as tensions with China escalate over a territorial dispute.
Japanese companies are increasing investment in the 10 Asean economies as they seek to counter the fallout from the row with China that has damaged a $340-billion trade relationship.
"Asean is the region where Japan needs to place the biggest importance down the road given its economic growth," Finance Minister Taro Aso said at a briefing.
The measures will help "Japan and Asean nations to achieve economic growth and build a win-win relationship", he said.
The International Monetary Fund estimated last month that Asean economies will expand 5.5% this year compared with the 1.2% pace of advanced economies, including 1.6% in Japan.
Aso made his comments after a meeting with his Asean counterparts in Greater Noida near New Delhi, where the Asian Development Bank is holding its annual meeting.
Finance ministers and central bankers from China skipped a separate "Asean-plus-three" meeting held earlier in the day.
Zhu Guangyao, China's vice-finance minister, denied that Finance Minister Lou Jiwei and People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan missed the event because of tensions with Japan.
They remained in China for "important domestic discussions", he said, adding that economic and financial issues are "separate from the political side".
A meeting between the finance ministers of China, South Korea and Japan due to take place at the ADB meeting was called off last month, according to a statement issued by Japan's Finance Ministry on April 26.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand in January to strengthen bonds with Southeast Asian nations, some of which are also involved in territorial disputes with China.
Japan and China both claim sovereignty over islands in the East China Sea known as Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese. Abe vowed last month to protect the islands by force if necessary after marine patrols from both sides circled each other.
Japan will set up bilateral working groups with Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand to discuss ways to improve cooperation, according to the finance ministry statement.
Discussions will include how to promote the use of Asean currencies by Japanese companies that develop their businesses in the region, it said.
The two sides will consider a plan that will allow Japanese banks to borrow from the Singapore and Thailand central banks using Japanese government bonds as collateral, the finance ministry said.
Japan's foreign direct investment in Asean countries more than doubled to $19.6 billion in 2011, according to Japan External Trade Organization figures using finance ministry data. In the same period, FDI to China and Hong Kong rose 52% to about $14 billion.
To encourage the development of regional bond markets, Japan has invested in the Pan Asia Bond Index Fund, which invests in government bonds issued by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, the finance ministry said. It didn’t specify the amount.
To shield the region from another global financial crisis, Japan will consider reviving bilateral currency swap agreements with Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, it said.
Japan, China, South Korea and Asean last year agreed to double the so-called Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralisation agreement to $240 billion, to provide additional liquidity if their currencies come under attack.
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- Writer: Bloomberg News