Asean finance ministers shrug off pollution to focus on regional agenda

business April 01, 2019 01:00

By Wichit Chaitrong
The Nation

11,872 Viewed

Thailand will not cancel the 23rd Asean Finance Ministers’ Meeting in Chiang Rai this week despite that province and others in the North being in the grip of severe air pollution for several consecutive days, an official at the Finance Ministry said.



The regional ministers will highlight cooperation in using more local currency for trade settlement and investment, cross-border electronics payment, digital-asset oversight and cybersecurity in financial transactions. 

“Everything required for the meeting has been well arranged so we can’t cancel it,” Lavaron Sangsnit, director-general of the Fiscal Policy Office, said yesterday. 

The Asean Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ Meeting runs tomorrow through Friday. About 300 representatives from the 10 Asean countries plus East Asia and the US will attend, along with business leaders from Asean and Europe.

The ministry had not expected the pollution in the northern provinces to worsen in the past few days, the result of a spreading forest fire. 

Lavaron said nine Asean finance ministers had confirmed their attendance, while Malaysia was sending a deputy finance minister as its representative. 

He said closed-door meetings would shield the participants from exposure to the pollution and air purifiers would be installed in the meeting rooms. 

Thailand is chairing the 10-nation Asean this year and is pushing the theme “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability”. 

The Asean ministers will discuss three key areas of cooperation: connectivity, sustainability and resilience, said Lavaron. 

 Asean aims to implement connectivity in financing, payment and services to facilitate cross-border electronic payments. It will also promote local-currency settlements to reduce dependence on the US dollar and lower exchange-rate risks from swings in the value of the dollar. 

Ministers will also discuss financial inclusion to enable individuals and small businesses to access credit. They aim to develop microinsurance to support small businesses. 

Cybersecurity will be raised with an eye to training Asean officials to deal with online threats to the financial sector. 

They will also seek cooperation in digital-asset oversight since digital currencies and tokens have emerged as means of investment. Financial regulators in Asean will also seek cooperation regarding financial information to guard against financial scams. 

The Finance Ministry expects the meeting will lead to concerted action reinforcing Asean connectivity in all areas, Lavaron said. 

Financial infrastructure should be enhanced in the long run. Taxation would be more compatible and eventually contribute to sustainability of the regional economy to absorb shocks from outside, he said. 

The Asean Business Advisory Council and EU-Asean Business Council will also meet Asean finance ministers to seek “friendlier” regulations to facilitate trade and investment in the region.

Senior Asean officials will meet on May 2 and 3. 

Senior officials from the US Treasury Department, China, Japan and South Korea will also meet with Asean representatives. Asean finance ministers will meet on May 4 and 5.