Asia needs policy coordination amid slower growth

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

BEIJING (AP) — Asia-Pacific economies need to recalibrate financial policies in the face of slowing global growth, U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin said Wednesday, following a meeting of regional financial officials to prepare for next month's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Countries in the region are looking to boost financing for the construction of roads, bridges and other necessary infrastructure and will submit proposals to do so to the summit, to be held in Beijing.

Figures showing lower Chinese growth announced this week have raised concerns about negative effects on the global economy and highlighted the need for coordinated action.

"Global demand is slowing and it is going to be something that we as a group of countries are going to need to pay particular attention to," Raskin said at a news conference following the final session of the preparatory meeting, also in Beijing.

The International Monetary Fund this month cut its forecast for global economic growth this year to 3.3 percent from 3.4 percent. Even so, the IMF now expects the U.S. economy to grow 2.2 percent this year, up from its June forecast of 1.7 percent.

Emphasizing the importance of infrastructure to growth, the Asian Development Bank estimates that Asian countries need to spend $8 trillion on such projects between 2010 and 2020 to keep their economies humming.

The meeting of officials from the 21 APEC economies came a day after China, the world's No. 2 economy, announced that economic growth had dwindled to a five-year low of 7.3 percent in the last quarter, raising concerns of spill-over effects on the global economy.

In comments to the opening session, Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli said recovery from the global economic downturn had been tepid.

But he said China was on track to meet its loose goal of 7.5 percent growth for the year, with inflation stable and the economy set to produce more than 10 million new jobs.

"We have full confidence in the Chinese economy," said Zhang, who ranks seventh in the ruling Communist Party's hierarchy.

Wednesday's meeting was chaired by China's finance minister, Lou Jiwei, who told reporters that China's third-quarter growth was within an acceptable range. Lou also said the growth was of higher quality, using less energy and producing less pollution.

The meeting's closing statement emphasized the importance to the global recovery of the APEC economies, which account for about 40 percent of the world's population, 60 percent of the global economy and about half of global trade.

"The APEC region, as the engine of the world economy, should lead the global recovery toward strong, sustainable and balanced growth," the statement said.