Japan boosts currency swap deals with some ASEAN nations

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Japan's Finance Minister Taro Aso speaks during a semi-annual parliament hearing on monetary policy at the Lower House of the parliament in Tokyo June 19, 2013. Photo: Reuters

Japan is boosting bilateral currency swaps with some Southeast Asian nations ahead of its weekend summit meeting with leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Tokyo, Finance Minister Taro Aso said on Friday.

The deals come at a time when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes the Japan-ASEAN summit - which does not involve China or South Korea - will promote closer ties with Southeast Asia.

Tokyo nearly doubled its currency swap with Indonesia to $22.76 billion in a deal aimed at providing an extra cushion against potential disruptions when the U.S. Federal Reserve begins tapering its massive monetary stimulus.

Japan also agreed to double its currency swap with Philippines to $12 billion, while agreeing to re-enter a swap deal with Singapore at $3 billion, Aso told reporters.

"I hope strengthening of financial cooperation will contribute to stability in regional financial markets and further development of bilateral economic and trade relations," he said. "Stable currencies will contribute to Japan's interests as well."

The finance minister also said he hopes stability in regional financial markets will ease jitters over a potential impact from the pullback of U.S. stimulus.

Deals with Indonesia and Philippines include crisis-prevention credit lines. Tokyo is also aiming to revive lapsed agreements with Malaysia and Thailand, ministry officials said.

Liquidity arrangements with countries in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations were a core element of the global response to the late-1990s Asia financial crisis.

The bilateral arrangements build on the $240 billion "Chiang Mai Initiative", a web of swap deals spanning ASEAN, Japan, China and South Korea. Under the deals, countries pledge bilateral liquidity support in case of a financial crunch.

The aim is to reassure investors before a crisis erupts and thus prevent or minimise panic over balance-of-payment levels that can cause destabilising capital outflows.

Abe has visited all 10 ASEAN leaders, but he has yet to meet with his counterparts from China or South Korea, both of which have territorial disputes with Tokyo. The other ASEAN members are Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Brunei and Laos.

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