Southeast Asian leaders affirm free trade goals
NUSA DUA, Indonesia — Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have reaffirmed their commitment to open trading systems that have underpinned their economic growth.
The leaders met Thursday in Bali, Indonesia, on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the group will redouble efforts to reach a “substantial conclusion” to a regional trade arrangement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, by the end of the year.
That initiative includes China, India and Japan, but not the United States.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Asean, which includes wealthy Singapore and poorer countries like Myanmar and Laos, also is determined to close gaps in development within Asean.
He said: “This is important, to make sure that no one is left behind.”
About a dozen activists have staged a brief, peaceful protest at the annual meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Bali, Indonesia.
Representatives of various rights groups held up placards and chanted “Defend peoples’ rights!” and “Stop the attacks!” outside meeting rooms Thursday at a convention center where media and civil society groups are gathered during the annual meeting.
Those involved had badges allowing them to enter the tightly guarded venue.
Members of advocacy groups for women, farmers and workers said their gathering of about 500 at a hotel in the city of Denpasar, miles from the conference, was twice shut down by police.
An IMF staff member said she would discuss the issue and bring it to the “highest levels.”
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde has said a bailout package for Pakistan would need to be fully transparent.
Lagarde said Thursday that she had not yet seen a formal request for help but thought she might receive one later in the day when meeting with Pakistan’s finance minister.
He said earlier this week the country would seek assistance to help it weather a financial crisis.
Pakistan is one of a number of countries that have accepted Chinese financing for projects of Beijing’s “Belt and Road Initiative” for building roads, ports and other infrastructure across the globe.
Lagarde said help for the country would have to take into account what debts are owed to whom. She said the issue of “debt transparency” applies to all countries. /ee
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