South-east Asian countries must coordinate in the face of a currency turmoil that could undermine their economies, officials said on Thursday, as the region vowed action on a plan for political and economic union by 2015.
Leaders of 10 south-east Asian countries kicked off three days of talks and will be joined on Friday by colleagues from six Asian powers for a summit highlighting Asiaâ€™s role as the engine of global growth. The six countries include China, Japan and India.
The region is once again attracting billions of dollars in capital inflows and its stock markets are among the worldâ€™s best performers this year.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joins the summit of the 16 Asian countries on Saturday, underscoring a drive by the US administration to re-engage with Asia after a period of relative neglect amid unease about Chinaâ€™s new assertiveness.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will join the East Asian Summit on Saturday while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is already in the Vietnamese capital for meetings.
Tension between China and Japan over disputed islands is also likely to be addressed, though a decision was yet to be taken on a one-on-one meeting between leaders, a Chinese official said. Differences over how to handle the military-ruled Myanmar could bring discord among south-east Asian leaders, even as they trumpet their vision of unity in the diverse region.
Global currency troubles are not officially on the agenda this week but the issue did come up with the south-east Asian economies fretting over the possibility of getting sandwiched in a currency war between China and the US.
The main challenge is to manage robust capital inflows that supported recovery from a short recession during the global crisis, but pose a risk by strengthening currencies and undermining export competitiveness.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) had developed a common stand.