Pattaya: The East Asia Summit, which collapsed in chaos on Saturday, was meant to provide an opportunity for leaders of half the world’s population to discuss responses to the global financial crisis.
The Asian leaders were also scheduled to sign an investment pact with China and put the final touches on a regional currency pool to help member nations fend off speculative attacks and capital flight.
“The summit has been delayed and can be reopened, but we lost a good opportunity” to discuss financial cooperation and combat protectionism, said Zhou Fangye, of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
The East Asia Summit brings together the 10 member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand for discussions about trade, economic issues and regional security.
The annual meeting is almost the only time Asian leaders gather without US or European leaders. The Asian group has been struggling to create a focus and identity since their first summit was held in Kuala Lumpur in 2005.
Thai protesters forced the cancellation of the summit after blockading hotels where visiting leaders stayed and storming into the media centre to denounce the Thai prime minister.
Thailand foreign ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said the investment agreement with China and the foreign currency pool arrangement would most likely be inked in July at the annual meetings of Asean foreign ministers and their “dialogue partners”.
Chinese premier Wen Jiabao had been expected to sign a China-Asean Investment Agreement, capping long-running talks for a comprehensive free-trade area that would be the world’s largest, encompassing 1.8 billion people and a combined gross domestic product of $2 trillion (around Rs100 trillion).
Leaders from Asean, China, Japan and South Korea had been set to back expansion of a currency swap network to $120 billion from $80 billion to deal with any shortages caused by the kind of capital flight that characterized the “Asian contagion” financial crisis a decade ago. That can be formally implemented at the Asean secretariat anytime and does not need the leaders’ formal signature, the Asean diplomat said.
The leaders were also expected to discuss protectionism, climate change, energy and food security and response to disasters such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and last year’s cyclone in Myanmar.
Analysts will be assessing the damage to the credibility of Asean, long derided as a talk shop but now on its way to becoming a rules-based European Union-style community, from the collapsed summit.