Page last updated at 09:13 GMT, Sunday, 1 March 2009

Asean group seeks economic action

Some of the Asean members at the summit
The members considered human rights and financial issues

South East Asian leaders have called for greater co-ordinated regional action to help restore their damaged export-driven economies.

The 10 countries in the Asean group endorsed measures to stimulate economic activity, ease access to credit, and stand firm against trade protectionism.

They also called for reform of the international financial system to take more account of developing countries.

Their regional grouping also aims to be an economic community by 2015.

The Association of South East Asian Nations' statement at the end of its summit in Thailand included the goal of a forming a community similar to the European Union.

However, the nations stressed that the EU was an inspiration and not a model.

It is clear from the limited progress that integration of the diverse countries is likely to take longer than six years, says BBC correspondent Jonathan Head in Bangkok.

Human rights were a particular issue for the grouping, which includes non-democratic countries Burma and Vietnam.

Asean also made much of its first charter of rules - but it has established no mechanism for enforcing them on its members, our correspondent adds.

Small steps

But in the economic sphere, Asean has made more headway, signing a landmark free trade agreement with trading partners Australia and New Zealand.

In one of the less high-profile agreements to come out of the summit, dentists are now allowed to practice throughout the region.

Such incremental steps are slowly building co-operation, our correspondent adds.

Asean members include Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia and Laos.

Now in its 14th year, the annual summit traditionally focused on human rights, but the worldwide financial crisis was top of the agenda this year.

Several powerful Asian economies have seen their fortunes reversed as the economic downturn continues to bite.

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