CEBU, PHILIPPINES - East Asia should build now on its recent economic achievements to forge ties that can achieve a vision of lasting stability and prosperity for the region, ADB's President Haruhiko Kuroda told leaders attending the Second East Asia Summit today.
"Almost a decade ago, in the aftermath of the 1997-1998 financial crisis, many were about to write off East Asia's future," Mr. Kuroda said in his speech.
The region converted the crisis into an opportunity to address underlying structural weaknesses, he told the Summit. In less than a decade, the region's economies have become strong again.
ADB estimates suggest that East Asian economies grew by 5% in 2006 - a record since the crisis.
"With growth moderating in the United States and Europe, our assessment is that East Asian economies would post a somewhat slower, yet solid, growth this year," Mr. Kuroda said.
To take better advantages of the sources of dynamism within East Asia, he said it is essential to facilitate the cross-border movement of goods, services, capital, and people.
"Inadequate transport and communication infrastructure; uncompetitive transport and logistics services; and restrictive policies will all push up the cost of doing business in East Asia," he told the Summit.
The ADB President said trade and investment cooperation was also a key pillar of the evolving regional architecture.
Mr. Kuroda said to reap the benefits of free trade agreements (FTAs), East Asia must chart a clear road map of a region-wide FTA. He suggested that the existing FTAs between ASEAN and each of its dialogue partners could lay the foundations of an East Asian FTA.
More efficient regional reserve pooling, comprehensive surveillance, and greater policy coordination among East Asian economies could ensure financial stability and reduce the risk of future crises.
Cooperation should also be fostered in areas that will help East Asia manage other cross-border risks, such as environmental degradation, communicable diseases, and natural disasters, he told the conference.
The ADB President added that the move by ASEAN Leaders to bring forward the deadline for the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) to 2015 should help accelerate the pace of integration and promote its role as a regional hub in the process.
In conclusion, he said that over the last 40 years, ADB had been steadfast partner in the region's development process.
"Our institution is proud to be part of East Asia's amazing success story that has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty," he said. "And as you move forward to pursue common goals in a more systematic way, ADB will continue to offer any assistance it can."
The ADB President has been participating over the last few days in several key activities connected with the 12th ASEAN Summit in Cebu, including the 3rd Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) Summit and the 2nd Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) Summit on Friday.