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Wednesday, November 26, 1997 Published at 11:53 GMT


Apec endorses IMF rescue plan
image: [ Even matching jackets and denim shirts could not lighten the mood at this gathering ]
Even matching jackets and denim shirts could not lighten the mood at this gathering

Asian and Pacific countries have ended their summit in Canada by supporting a $60bn rescue package for battered Asian economies.

The final declaration of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum endorsed a plan for emergency funding for countries in trouble, providing they meet strict conditions laid down by the International Monetary Fund.

[ image: The Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, speaks for all 18 leaders]
The Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, speaks for all 18 leaders
The Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, speaking on behalf of all the leaders at the end of the meeting in Vancouver, admitted it was essential to move swiftly to stem the tide of economic turmoil.

However, he said the group was determined not to allow the current turmoil in the region to deflect them from the goal of free trade.

[ image: Clinton: Confidence in the future]
Clinton: Confidence in the future
The President of the United States, Bill Clinton, hailed the outcome a strong vote of confidence in the region's future.

Overall, the summit concluded that prospects for growth in Asia remained strong and the leaders pledged themselves to work for further trade liberalisation.

The leaders also invited Russia, Vietnam and Peru to join Apec from next year.

The final declaration of the summit endorsed a framework agreement reached last week by deputy finance ministers in the Philippines.

The scheme includes a promise of advice and financial backing from the IMF as well as back-up support from the region's wealthier countries if necessary.

The Apec leaders were careful not to be too specific. Sums already proposed for IMF programmes in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and South Korea add up to more than $60bn.

It is unclear how much more Apec countries would be willing to provide to prevent further regional instability.

Leaders discuss crisis

Asia's economic problems dominated the meeting, which in the past has celebrated the region's "miracle" economic boom. The leaders spent most of the final morning debating the current situation.

Even before the summit began, the Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai issued a stern warning that no nation was immune. Thailand ignited the crisis in the summer when it devalued its currency and accepted an emergency bail-out from the IMF.

Sunday's collapse of the fourth largest Japanese brokerage, Yamaichi Securities, fanned fears that the turmoil would spread to Japan - Asia's economic powerhouse.

The US President, Bill Clinton, met the Japanese Prime Minister, Ryutaro Hashimoto, and said he felt the crisis could be resolved.

The Apec members:

Canada, the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Hong Kong.

Asia business correspondent David Willis reports President Clinton is keenly aware of financial trouble spreading closer to home

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