South Korea: Finance ministers from Asia and Europe agreed that that their respective regions have shown surprising resilience amid global economic turmoil, French finance minister Christine Lagarde said.
Ministers from the 43-nation Asia-Europe Meeting, or ASEM, group were meeting to discuss challenges buffeting the world economy including financial instability and skyrocketing costs for food and fuel.
Lagarde, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the meeting, said that participants “drew the conclusion that both Asia and Europe economies were far more resilient than expected in the light of the international economic crisis.”
She added that they also identified what she called “paradoxical challenges” including the “need to both combat inflation and stimulate growth” and “de-leverage but not eliminate risk” in financial markets.
The ministers were meeting for the eighth time since the establishment of the Asia-Europe Meeting, a dialogue and cooperation body that brings together the 27-member European Union and 16 Asian countries including economic powerhouses Japan and China.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, whose government is facing a strike by truckers angry over the rising cost of fuel and other issues, addressed the opening of the meeting, telling participants that international financial market disruption has caused a global economic slowdown.
“On top of that, the rising prices of oil food and raw materials has generated the largest crisis since the oil shock in the 1970s,” he said. “Some Asian countries are faced even with a food crisis.”
Lagarde, one of the most high profile officials at the meeting, said that the financial, fuel and food crises affecting the world economy are interrelated and need to be tackled accordingly. “To fix one, we need to fix the others,” she told reporters. “So I think it’s critical that we, bring some stability back to the financial markets.”
The actual number of finance ministers attending the one-day meeting was relatively small. Of the five Group of Eight countries that belong to ASEM, only two Japan and France sent their ministers. Meanwhile G-8 finance ministers met over the weekend for talks in Osaka, Japan.
Besides the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, the Asian contingent is rounded out by China, India, Japan, Mongolia, Pakistan and South Korea.
ASEM represents 51% of the world economy as measured by gross domestic product, and 62% of global trade, South Korean Strategy and Finance Minister Kang Man-soo told the meeting. “Asian countries are experiencing rapid growth and are now the most dynamic in the world economy,” Kang said, encouraging Europe to take an ever greater interest in Asia.