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Asian businesses seek closer regional integration

BANGKOK -- Leading Asian businesspeople called for deepening integration in finance, trade and investment among East Asian countries to combat the European sovereign debt crisis and financial uncertainty, which is casting a shadow over the world economy.

At the third Asian Business Summit held Thursday in Bangkok, leaders from 14 business organizations from 12 Asian economies shared similar views that the continent should establish a regional financial center so as to be less reliant on Western countries.

They said deeper integration among ASEAN, ASEAN+3 and ASEAN+6 would pave the way for establishment of the Free-Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) by 2020.

Phongsak Assakul, chairman of the Board of Trade of Thailand, said private enterprises would like to see that Asia has its own financial center to ensure businesses suffer fewer impacts from crises like the current euro-zone crunch.

“Currently, the centers of global financial trading are in Western countries. Asia has high potential to be a new center for financial trading and transactions thanks to stable economic growth,” Phongsak said.

Moreover, he said the private sector wanted to see closer integration on seamless trade under ASEAN's agreement with six partner countries — China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand — as it would encourage stronger integration in the Asia-Pacific region.

The meeting also proposed establishment of an Asian bond market to stabilize regional financial growth.

Nelson An-ping Chang, vice chairman of Taiwan's Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce, said that amid the global uncertainty, Asia should set up an efficient mechanism for stable exchange rates in the region and with trading-partner countries.

“Asia needs to promote closer financial cooperation and help small- and medium-sized enterprises ensure sustainable growth in the region,” he said.

Chang added that countries in Asia should also strengthen cooperation through public-private partnerships as governments could not alone drive growth amid global difficulty.

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