Wen Jiabao

Summit big on promises but short on solutions

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 October, 2008, 12:00am


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The two-day, 43-nation Asia-Europe Meeting closed yesterday afternoon in Beijing with plenty of promises to boost co-ordination and co-operation but few concrete measures that would immediately offer nations the tools needed to combat the financial meltdown.

The 'no-action' scenario was exactly what analysts had expected.

'The financial situations in Asia and Europe are so different at the moment, so it is really hard for both sides to work out anything substantial,' Renmin University economics professor Zhao Xijun said.

Banking systems in Europe have been hit hard by the credit crunch in the United States and European governments have already committed more than US$2 trillion to banks and financial institutions in a co-ordinated move to shore up their ailing markets.

In Asia, on the other hand, the economic fallout has largely been limited to the export and foreign investment sectors.

Professor Zhao said Asian countries would prefer to tackle their own problems first and would not reach out for help until they felt the full impact of the financial meltdown.

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso said that the world was just starting to realise the severity of the financial turmoil. Solutions and concrete measures would be left for later meetings.

'What we have achieved through this meeting and earlier meetings is, we all realise the severity of the problem and are determined to tackle it,' Mr Aso said.

'Since the world has not seen such a large-scale financial crisis since almost a century ago, it's really hard for anyone to come up with any concrete measures to address the issue.'

Before the meeting, many Asian and European nations had hoped that China, with the world's largest foreign currency reserves of US$1.9 trillion, would play a bigger role in both global financial policy and investment areas.

But President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao indicated that Beijing's priority would be to tackle domestic economic issues first.

Mr Wen said 'confidence, co-operation and responsibility' was the consensus reached by Asian and European leaders, and he called on governments to 'firmly and bravely' face their own responsibilities.

Renmin University politics professor Shi Yinhong said Asian leaders were right not to rush to propose or endorse any rescue measures, as major industrial countries in Europe and America should clear up their own mess first.

'There is no reason for Asian countries to foot the bill for America's and Europe's mistakes. Anyone can talk to anyone they want, but the countries which caused their own mess, especially the US, should play a leading role in bailing themselves out,' he said.

Professor Shi said that a summit in Washington next month of the Group of 20 developed and developing nations would be more importance than the Beijing talks. It would give the US a chance 'to take the lead to solve the crisis', Professor Shi said.

Meanwhile, Mr Aso said that he and Mr Hu had exchanged views on the stand they would adopt at the summit, scheduled to be held on November 15.