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ASEAN+3 expects economic recovery with help of COVID-19 vaccine rollouts

Asian economies, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, are expected to recover this year with the help of COVID-19 vaccine rollouts, but still warned of downside risks stemming from the emergence of new mutations and differences in vaccination rates among nations, according to a joint statement.

"We expect vaccine rollouts to play a key part in accelerating regional economic recovery," said the finance ministers and central bank governors of the ASEAN+3, which comprises ten ASEAN nations and its three partners, namely Japan, China, the Republic of Korea, in a joint statement after holding a videoconference on May 3.

While calling for vigilance against "uneven" economic recovery from the global health crisis, they pledged to "use all available policy tools to ensure an inclusive and sustainable recovery and maintain financial stability."

Underscoring their commitment to an "open and rules-based multilateral trade and investment system," they also welcomed the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, the world's largest free trade deal signed by Australia, New Zealand and the 13 Asian nations in November.

They gathered online on the sidelines of three-day annual Asian Development Bank (ADB) meetings that started in virtual format on the same day.

Next year's meetings will be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, according to the statement.

At the previous teleconference held in September, the ASEAN+3 countries decided to increase the operational flexibility of the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralisation scheme, which came into force in 2010 to address balance-of-payment and short-term liquidity difficulties in the region in times of crisis.

The scheme evolved from the Chiang Mai Initiative, the first regional currency swap arrangement launched by the 13 Asian nations in May 2000 with the aim of preventing a repeat of the 1997 Asian currency crisis.

At its annual gathering, the ADB launched the Asia Pacific Tax Hub, which is aimed at promoting knowledge sharing and strengthening cooperation on tax policy and administration, to enhance its support for developing nations in the region.

The new framework envisions providing an inclusive platform for policy dialogue among 68 ADB members and international institutions, such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB)./.