Asia-Europe Finance Ministers See Accelerated Economic Growth
NUSA DUA, Indonesia (AFP) - European and Asian finance ministers on Saturday expressed confidence that economic growth would accelerate over the next year as the combined scourge of war, terrorism, and SARS eased, and welcomed moves to strengthen ties between the two continents.
On the first day of the fifth AsiaEurope Meeting (ASEM) hosted by Indonesia on the resort island of Bali, finance ministers and officials from 10 Asian countries and the 15 European Union states agreed to work together more closely in the financial sector and to reduce world poverty.
The closed-door talks included an update on the economic outlook, with a general feeling of optimism among delegates.
"Asia is coming back," Philippines Finance Minister Jose Isidro Camacho said in an interview with AFP on the sidelines of the meeting.
"There has been a slight pause but there's growth momentum in Asia now and a general sense of cautious optimism across the board for the second half of this year and through to next year."
He said the priority was for ASEM members to work towards more open financial markets, stronger relationships, better governance and improved financial integrity.
German Parliamentary State Secretary Barbara Hendricks quoted World Bank figures forecasting Asia's economy would grow at an average of around 5.9 percent next year, compared to around 2.0 percent for Europe.
"The Asian economy is the fastest growing in the world," she said in an interview. "While expectations for Europe's economy are not as good, we expect growth will improve over the next year" partly due to the diminishing impact of geopolitical forces.
In an opening address, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri said the challenge was for developed countries to help poorer countries relieve their debt burdens, while poorer countries must improve governance and transparency.
"We need to put that challenge into real action; otherwise we will never reach our objective," she said in a statement read by top economics minister Dorodjatun Kuntjoro-Jakti. …