Finance ministers from Southeast Asia, Japan, South Korea and China agreed on Wednesday to look at ways of increasing the use of their own currencies in trade transactions. “Basically, members… would like to increase the value of trade and we would like to promote and encourage the usage of local currencies,” Indonesian Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo told reporters.
He spoke after an annual meeting of finance ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the three regional partners. At the moment the dollar is the dominant currency used in international trade transactions, including in Asia. Last August China said that it hoped for greater use of its currency in trade with ASEAN, in the context of a free trade deal between the two.
Ministers also agreed to study the financing of infrastructure, which is needed to sustain the region’s growth, and disaster risk insurance. The mounting cost of the world’s calamities is in focus after Japan’s earthquake and tsunami disaster in March. Tokyo has estimated that direct damage from the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami could reach around $300 billion. The disaster left nearly 26,000 people dead or missing and crippled a nuclear power plant, which has been releasing radioactive materials into the environment.