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Asian Nations Reject Idea of Trade Bloc

From Reuters

Southeast Asian officials have declined to endorse a Malaysian proposal to form a new trade group in the region to compete with blocs in North America and West Europe.

“We did not want to endorse it,” Indonesian Trade Ministry spokesman Suprapto said Saturday after two days of talks in the west Javanese city of Bandung.

“All countries took note of the proposal, and the case will be discussed further in the next senior economic official meeting,” he said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed wants to set up an East Asia trade group stretching from Thailand to Japan to counterbalance trade blocs in North America and West Europe.

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The idea has received a lukewarm response from most of Malaysia’s fellow members of the Assn. of South East Asian Nations--Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand--that rely heavily on trade with the West and Japan to prime their economies.

Indonesian President Suharto said earlier that ASEAN should work together but warned against forming a trade bloc.

The Bandung meeting of senior ASEAN officials was closed to journalists, and a planned news conference was canceled.

One Thai delegate said his country was still considering the proposal.

A Malaysian official said Kuala Lumpur realized that the concept needed further discussion.

The officials also discussed an ASEAN economic treaty, trade liberalization and textiles, Suprapto said.

He gave no other details.


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