PATTAYA, April 9 (Bernama) — Amid worsening global economy crisis and massive anti-government rally in Bangkok, the 14th Asean Summit and its related summits kick off Thursday as 16 leaders of one of the most important economy blocks meets to strengthen regional cooperation to cope with the global crisis.
While waiting for their leaders to set foot on the popular resort city, about two hour drives from Bangkok, senior economy officials begun the task of setting the agenda for three-day summit.
Despite the delay in the East Asian Summit which was initially slotted together with 14th Asean Summit in Hua Hin at the end of February, the 10-member Asean can look forward for a fruitful outcome as the world’s engine of growth China will sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with them.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will ink the agreement with Asean Leaders, including new Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak who will be making his debut in the summit after taking over the helm a week ago.
With a huge population of 1.9 billion and combined with Asean’s 560 million, the FTA which would come into effect in 2010 is expected to further strengthen trade between them, which stood at US$230 billion in 2008, a 14 percent growth from the previous year.
Asean also received a shot in the arm with announcement by Japanese Ambassador to Thailand Kyoji Komachi that the country would unveil a series of packages aimed at regional countries to cope with the economies crisis, including a US$20 billion in official development aid for developing countries.
During the summit, Asean, China, South Korea and Japan will also endorse the recommendation made by their Finance Ministers during a special meeting in Phuket in February where they agreed to raise to US$120 billion multilateralisation reserve pool under the Chiang Mai Initiative, from the initial US$80 billion.
Under the fund which is aimed at assisting members to cope with the crisis, Asean countries will contribute US$24 billion or 20 percent of the total amount, while China, Japan and South Korea will share the remaining.
Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand have agreed to contribute US$3.4 billion each towards the fund while the remaining five other Asean members comprising Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam will contribute five percent of their reserves to the initiative.
While such goodies are in store, host Thailand is struggling to assure its foreign guests, which includes prime ministers of China, South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, that it’s safe to come despite over 100,000 anti-government protestors in Bangkok giving an ultimatum to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to resign.
India will be represented Kamal Nath, its Commerce and Industry Minister.
The 44-year-old Abhisit, who took over on December after allies of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was removed by court, told the Channel 9 station in a morning talk show that he has no plan to bow to their demand.
The red army of Thaksin had laid siege to Abhisit’s office since March 26, and paralysed a major section of the capital since Wednesday in a showdown with the government. Abhisit’s motorcade was attacked by the protestors in Pattaya two days.
Vitavas Srivihok, director-general of the Thai Foreign Ministry’s Department of Asean Affairs, said besides the economy crisis, leaders would also discuss food and bio-energy security, disaster management and mutual recognition arrangement on good manufacturing practice of medicinal products.
On Sunday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will attend the Third Asean-United Nations Summit in Bangkok.
Source : Bernama