Pacific Rim finance executives ponder ways to curb inflation

BANGKOK – Finance ministers from major Pacific economies pledged on Thursday to fight inflation and target spending to support sustainable growth at a meeting in Bangkok ahead of a summit next month.

Asked about possible disagreements over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Thailand’s finance minister, host of the meeting, admitted there were ‘dividing opinions’ among senior officials at the economic cooperation forum 21-member Asia-Pacific, which includes Russia and many other Asian countries. Pacific nations.

China, another APEC member, was among the countries that refrained from joining the United States and many Western countries in condemning the attack and calling on Russia to stand down.

But Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said talks on Wednesday and Thursday focused mainly on economic issues and how to deal with the ramifications of the crisis.

“The only thing we can do is understand that the situation has already happened,” Arkhom said. “The consequence of the situation is the thing that we need to work together to resolve, especially the impact for the majority of the population, especially for vulnerable groups.”

APEC economies are focused on finding ways to help people cope with prices driven up by the fallout from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, he said.

As has often become the case with international meetings where consensus has proven elusive, finance ministers did not issue a communiqué as is customary. Instead, Arkhom released a statement from the president.

He cited “unprecedented risk” as central banks roll back stimulus programs and raise interest rates to cool inflation to multi-decade highs.

The tightening of monetary policy comes at a time when one of the biggest drivers of global economic activity, China, is facing a sharp slowdown in growth and a slowdown in its real estate sector.

It also led to a sharp rise in the value of the US dollar against many other currencies. This has increased risks for financial markets, inflated debt service costs and made imports of food, oil and other vital products extremely expensive for many economies.

On Thursday, the dollar briefly traded above 150 yen, adding to expectations that Japan could try to stem its slide past a 32-year low by intervening in the market. This is a far cry from the days when Tokyo was criticized for seeking to prevent the yen from strengthening in order to gain a competitive price advantage for Japanese exports.

The APEC President’s statement says members have recognized that “excessive volatility or disorderly movements” in exchange rates can harm economic and financial stability.

At the same time, they pledged to refrain from adjusting exchange rates “for competitive purposes”.

A Western official who attended the talks but spoke on condition of not being named in order to brief reporters on the closed sessions said improving supply chain security was a major topic of the two-day meeting.

One of the main questions raised was whether multinational corporations would be likely to move their factories out of China to other APEC economies to help reduce the risk of the kinds of disruptions seen in recent years due to of the pandemic and other issues, the official said. .

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