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East Asia bloc seen to fuel global growth

By Ronnel Domingo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:38:00 10/06/2009

Filed Under: Trade (general)

JAKARTA?A group of sixteen countries in East Asia, including the Philippines, is expected to fuel growth of a global economy still recovering from a severe downturn.

The Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia (Eria) is composed of 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and their dialogue partners?Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, China and India.

Eria has been described as the region?s counterpart of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a group made up of the world?s wealthiest nations.

Asean secretary general Surin Pitsuwan, who is also member of the Eria governing board, said Eria was designed to be the ?premier intellectual body? that would guide policymakers in formulating strategies to hasten economic integration and strengthen cooperation in the region.

?Eria aspires to be the foremost research institution whose products would supplement and complement those of global institutions like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank,? Surin said.

Eria, which was established in June 2008, held the second yearly meeting of its governing board here on Monday.

Hidetoshi Nishimura, Eria executive director, said the institute was working on a master plan for Asia. The plan aims to maximize industrialization through the development of much needed infrastructure.

?Eria highlights the importance of providing better business environment and to deepen internal and inter-country transport and logistics linkages in the region,? Nishimura explained.

Asean groups Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma) and Vietnam.

Although members of Asean vastly differ from each other in terms of economic development and political systems, the countries still nurture the hope of integration in the mold of the European Union.

According to Surin, ?(Asean) integration is working.?

While trade with the rest of the world shrank by 13.4 percent to $60.2 billion in 2008 compared to the 2007 level, intra-Asean trade grew by 17.3 percent to $11.1 billion, Surin said.

?Our emphasis on encouraging the development of small and medium enterprises is bearing fruit,? he said. ?We are confident that [the region?s] growth will continue.?



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