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Asean plus 3 agree to boost swap scheme

Top financial officials from East Asian countries agreed on Saturday to strengthen a multilateral currency swap scheme as a "part of the regional financial safety net".

Finance ministers and central bank governors from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus South Korea, Japan and China exchanged views on recent global and regional economic developments on the sidelines of the Asian Development Bank's annual meeting in Kazakhstan.

To develop resilient and safe bond markets in the region, the leaders agreed to continue developing the US$240 billion Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralisation scheme.

The standby fund, set up as a swap arrangement after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, is meant to help any member country solve or prevent any recurrence of an Asian currency crisis.

"We reaffirm our commitment to further strengthen the CMIM as part of the regional financial safety net," officials said in a statement released after the meeting.

The statement came amid growing concerns over challenges that include market jitters about the Federal Reserve's bond-buying slowdown, global tensions over Ukraine and signs of a slowdown in China's economic growth.

The officials also agreed to further strengthen the Asean+3 Macroeconomic Research Office, or AMRO, which they set up in 2011 to provide economic and financial surveillance and help the countries run the Chiang Mai scheme.

Thailand will propose Asean to set standards for weights and measures for consumer goods to reduce problems for exporters and facilitate trade in the region in preparation for next year's Asean Economic Community.

"The plan will reduce problems with goods inspections and procedures. If goods have been packed under the same standard and quantity requirement, this should help reduce shipment problems and boost business opportunities," Sutthanarak, director of the Bureau of Weights and Measures under the Internal Trade Department, said last week.

It should also foster consumer protection by reducing substandard packaging or missing quantities of products.

For instance, it will set up packaging standards for toothpaste, soap and shampoo.

According to the department's survey, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand have similar weights and measures standards. Other countries are developing their standards in line with Thailand and Singapore.

From every container, officials will randomly inspect about 125 packages of goods, if they have passed used-by dates. If the standard on weights and measures has been issued, it should help cut delivery times.

The bureau will soon send a team to inspect 1,500 LPG stations nationwide to ensure that consumers have been treated fairly.

Some have complained to the department about some LPG stations cheating on the volume of gas, or dispensing gas with many bubbles.


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