A meeting of Latin American finance ministers today to formulate a collective response to the economic crisis that has rocked Asia and Russia is under fire as a waste of time before it begins. Critics claimed the International Monetary Fund-convened meeting was too late to save Latin economies from the Asian impact and would offer no new resources to mend the damage. Goldman Sachs' Latin American analyst Jorge Mariscal said: 'Perhaps they will sit at a table, hold hands and pray for a solution. What they hope to achieve from this meeting is a question that we are all wondering about.' The IMF, which has already fired its best shots in funding rescues in Asian and Russian crises and with only US$10 billion available for future bailouts, has little to offer but advice. Mr Mariscal said the IMF should rather use its considerable political muscle and prestige in lobbying key industrialised countries to co-ordinate a global response. The recent panic in world markets has weakened Latin American currencies and massively reduced the wealth of the region's corporations. The region's stock markets have fallen as much as 50 per cent this year while interest rates have soared and currencies have plunged. Sales of key exports, particularly oil and other commodities, have fallen. If the US economy is slowed by its stock-market declines then the damage will be even greater in Latin America, which sends most of its exports north. IMF managing director Michel Camdessus said the Washington meeting would give ministers a chance to identify responses to common threats and project to the world a signal of their co-operation. Mr Camdessus said: 'Regional surveillance; namely bringing together ministers and governors to help mutually in identifying the problems, in passing a judgment on the situation, and in taking steps that would be more difficult to take in isolation.' The importance of Latin American economies to the US will be underlined by the attendance of Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and his deputy Lawrence Summers. Latin America accounts for more than 20 per cent of US exports, with Mexico receiving about half. Latin American economies had hoped years of painful reform would insulate their region from the crises. But the past six months have shown the region is not going to get off lightly.