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Learn from crisis, keep economy sound and strong: Manmohan

By M.R. Narayan Swamy, IANS,

Hua Hin (Thailand) : Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday urged the world to learn from the global economic crisis by keeping “the real economy strong and sound”.

Addressing the East Asia Summit here, the prime minister also said that the vision of Asian economic integration among member countries could lead to a broader Asian Economic Community.

“We must learn lessons from the global economic crisis,” Manmohan Singh told leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia.

“One of these is the need to ensure coordination in our growth policies,” he said. “The other is to keep the real economy strong and sound.

“We agree with Japan that greater emphasis has to be laid on growth of domestic demand. And the third is to keep the flow of trade, technology and investment open, orderly and predictable.”

The economist turned politician, who ushered in sweeping free market reforms in India in 1991, said the evolution of the East Asia Summit process should conform to the ideals of an open, inclusive, transparent and outward looking forum.

“We need to move forward in this direction, and exhibit the requisite political will,” he said. “Economic integration among us could generate billions of dollars of additional output.

“Our focus should be on generation of stronger domestic demand in Asian economies through investment in infrastructure, creation and strengthening of the social welfare net, skill development of our workforce and environmentally sustainable and inclusive growth.”

He added that the vision of Asian economic integration by coalescing the Free Trade Agreements among member countries “into an Asian Regional Trade Agreement is a pivotal step towards the integration of Asia into a common unit.

This can lead to the creation of a broader Asian Economic Community.”

Manmohan Singh reminded the leaders of the region that the world’s eyes were on Asia, which, he said, “can lead the global economic revival from the front”.

Pointing out that India had signed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements with Singapore and South Korea and a Trade-in-Goods Agreement with the ASEAN, he said: “We are in discussions with Japan, China, Thailand and Malaysia and other countries to conclude agreements of a similar nature.”

He said India would contribute $1 million over 10 years to enlarge the activities of the Economic Research Institute of ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA).

The prime minister’s address to the East Asia Summit was his last major interaction during a hectic two-day visit he made to Thailand to take part in the seventh India-ASEAN and fourth East Asia summits.

Manmohan Singh also raised the issue of terrorism, saying there were growing threats from non-traditional sources such as piracy, transnational groups and extremist ideologies.

“This will increasingly require a concerted and cooperative response in the coming period,” he said. “We will have to pay greater attention to issues of social exclusion and regional imbalances in development.”