USA, Europe debt crisis may slow ASEAN's 2011 growth to 5.7-6.4%

The 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) posted average growth of 7.5% last year as their export-dependent economies rebounded following the global financial crisis. However the debt crises in the United States and Europe, and the impact of Japan's tsunami, is likely to slow economic growth this year at between 5.7-6.4%, ASEAN Secretary General, Surin Pitsuwan, told Reuters in an interview.

"What we are worried about is if it is going to take a long time for them to get their act together, we may be affected. I'm sure we are going to take a hit this year. This is a new reality we have to live with."

The region sends about 30% of its exports to the United States, Europe and Japan, though this proportion has declined from 53% in 1993. Intra-ASEAN trade has grown to make up a quarter of the total. "It's not very high," said Mr Pitsuwan. "It needs to go up to 30%, it needs to go up to 35%."

ASEAN is aiming for a free trade bloc by 2015 but Mr Pitsuwan said the main constraint was slow national implementation of regional agreements.