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By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

ASEAN to deal with financial crisis

Rodolfo Severino, secretary general of the Association of South East Asian Nations, addressed financial and ecological issues that affect Asia at a packed discussion held by the Elliott School of International Affairs Tuesday.

Severino told the 60-person audience not to believe everything it reads in the papers about ASEAN.

“There has been some tendency in the media to denigrate ASEAN as a failure,” he said. “This is speculative at best and non sequitur at worst. These arguments fly in the face of facts.”

ASEAN was founded in 1967 as a regional security and political organization and has nine member countries. A global financial crisis broke out earlier this year in ASEAN nations.

“The financial crisis is a global phenomenon,” Severino said. “It exposed weaknesses in financial systems of ASEAN countries but is not unique to southeast Asia. We need a global solution for it.”

To deal with the crisis, ASEAN has concentrated more intensely on financial matters. A surveillance mechanism that measures economic data serves as an early warning system to alert ASEAN financial ministers of impending financial problems, Severino said.

“No country can deal with this problem by itself,” he said. “The suffering in the crisis needs to be alleviated.”

Severino said a solution to the crisis cannot be made by ASEAN alone. He said the solution will need to be worldwide in scope.

“There is nobody but the United States that can reshape the global financial system to prevent this crisis from recurring,” he said.

Severino said ASEAN encourages use of currencies of member nations in inter-ASEAN trade, which accounts for almost 25 percent of all members’ trade. Using ASEAN currencies would reduce dependency on foreign currencies such as the U.S. dollar.

Severino also called for expedited implementation of the Asian Free Trade Agreement. AFTA would significantly lower tariffs between member nations to encourage greater regional trade.

Severino addressed some of the ecological problems southeast Asia faces and the way the media focuses on those issues.

When the haze from massive forest fires in South East Asia started “the media was all there,” he said. “When responsive measures began to take effect, the media was nowhere to be seen.”

ASEAN tries to hold each country to its own environmental standards and the next step is to have regional standards, he said.

Severino was asked why the nation formerly known as Burma, now called Myanmar, was admitted to ASEAN given its widely reported human rights abuses and the country’s self-isolation.

He said Myanmar’s entry into ASEAN is a sign the country is slowly re-entering regional affairs. Severino said membership will bring trade and resources to the people of Myanmar.

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