(ATF) - China, Japan, South Korea and the 10 countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) vowed on Monday to strengthen regional financial cooperation while providing support for countries hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
In a joint statement issued after a virtual meeting on the sidelines of the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) annual meetings, the ministers pledged to achieve "inclusive recovery, preserve long-term fiscal sustainability and maintain financial stability".
"We expect a rebound in 2021 as the recovery gathers momentum and vaccine rollouts allow a gradual opening up of our economies," a statement read. "The recovery appears uneven across and within countries, and subject to possible elevated risks including the spread of new variants and different paces of vaccination."
China, Japan and South Korea said they would explore "new initiatives" to strengthen the regional financial safety net at the virtual meeting with ASEAN, which comprises Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.
The financial chiefs vowed to use all policy tools to ensure a sustainable economic recovery, and to gradually normalise expansionary policy while mitigating risks of a fiscal cliff.
TAPPING CURRENCY LINES
At their last virtual meeting in September, the financial chiefs from Japan, South Korea, China and ASEAN, a group known as ASEAN+3, promised to boost the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralisation (CMIM).
The CMIM plays a crucial role in supporting regional financial stability by allowing the member economies, which include the ASEAN+3 and Hong Kong, to tap currency swap lines to secure currencies in need.
The pledge follows a call for universal healthcare in the wake of the pandemic by the ADB's top doctor.
"It’s critically important that our developing member countries either initiate or accelerate progress towards universal health coverage," Patrick Osewe, chief of the ADB Health Sector Group, said on Monday.
"If you look at the countries that perform better during this pandemic, these are countries that have invested in universal health coverage, whereby they have primary-care facilities that have good trained staff and also have equipment, that they’re able to detect any infection at the very early stages before it starts to spread," he added.
With reporting by Reuters