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Canada eyes entry in Australia/Pacific trade talks
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June 19, 2012 - 8:02 pm
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Jun. 19 2012.

After months of lobbying for an invitation, Canada has been asked to join the countries negotiating the proposed free trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In a statement Tuesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper welcomed the invitation.

"Opening new markets and creating new business opportunities leads to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians," Harper said. "A TPP agreement will enhance trade in the Asia-Pacific region and will provide greater economic opportunity for Canadians and Canadian businesses."

According to the communique from the Prime Minister's Office, "Canada will proceed to enter the talks at the earliest opportunity."

Canada, as well as Japan and Mexico, have been lobbying for months to join the talks.

An invitation was extended to Mexico on Monday.

There are currently nine states participating in the trade talks that would see the creation of a tariff-free economic zone shared, so far, by Australia, United States, New Zealand, Singapore, Chile, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

Together, the nine member states represent a potential market of more than 500 million consumers. With the inclusion of Mexico and Canada, that number jumps to 658 million people representing a GDP of $20.5 trillion.

Besides the TPP announcement, there are also reports the prime minister will detail the latest progress on developing closer trade ties with China, following up on his February trip to the Asian economic powerhouse.

Progress on both files would bolster Prime Minister Harper's push to broaden Canadian free trade partnerships around the world, and take some of the sting out of a stern rebuke he was given after offering his advice on how the 17-members of the eurozone should rely on their own resources to get their economic house in order.

But European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso made clear such unsolicited advice was, in fact, unwelcome.

"Frankly, we are not coming here to receive lessons in terms of democracy and in terms of how to run an economy because the European Union has a model that we may be very proud of," Barroso told reporters.

"We are not complacent about the difficulties. We are extremely open. I wish that all our partners were so open about their own difficulties. We are extremely open and we are engaging our partners but we are certainly not coming here to receive lessons from nobody."

Despite the bristling, a draft of a statement to be released at the end of the Los Cabos summit Tuesday portrays the G20 leaders as united in their efforts to repair the world's economy.

"We are united in our resolve to promote growth and jobs," the draft says, declaring that the leaders will announce the "co-ordinated Los Cabos Growth and Jobs Action Plan" to achieve those goals.

On 11 November 2011, the Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, announced negotiations to join.
For now, the parties have taken no action on Japan’s request to participate.

Although all original and negotiating parties are members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the TPP is not an APEC initiative. However, it is considered as a pathfinder for the proposed Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP), an APEC initiative.

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June 19, 2012 - 8:14 pm
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APEC leaders agree on new free trade zone.

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a forum for 21 Pacific Rim countries (formally Member Economies) that seeks to promote free trade and economic cooperation throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

In January 1989, Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke called for more effective economic cooperation across the Pacific Rim region. This led to the first meeting of APEC in the Australian capital of Canberra in November, chaired by Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Gareth Evans. Attended by political ministers from twelve countries, the meeting concluded with commitments for future annual meetings in Singapore and South Korea.

Established in response to the growing interdependence of Asia-Pacific economies and the advent of regional economic blocs (such as the European Union) in other parts of the world, APEC works to raise living standards and education levels through sustainable economic growth and to foster a sense of community and an appreciation of shared interests among Asia-Pacific countries. Members account for approximately 40% of the world's population, approximately 54% of the world's gross domestic product and about 44% of world trade.

Possible enlargement

India has requested membership in APEC, and received initial support from the United States, Japan and Australia. Officials have decided not to allow India to join for various reasons. However, the decision was made not to admit more members until 2010. Moreover, India does not border the Pacific Ocean, which all current members do. However, India has been invited to be an observer for the first time in November 2011.

In addition to India, Mongolia, Pakistan, Laos, Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador, are among a dozen countries seeking membership in APEC by 2008. Colombia applied for APEC's membership as early as in 1995, but its bid was halted as the organization stopped accepting new members from 1993 to 1996, and the moratorium was further prolonged to 2007 due to the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. Costa Rica, Colombia and Ecuador had hoped to become members by 2010.[citation needed] Guam has also been actively seeking a separate membership, citing the example of Hong Kong, but the request is opposed by the United States, which currently represents Guam.

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June 19, 2012 - 8:21 pm
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Barack Obama's man Kurt Campbell junks Kevin Rudd's Asia-Pacific plan.

June 12, 2009

KEVIN Rudd's proposal for an Australian-led Asia-Pacific community similar to the European Union has been slapped down by the top envoy chosen by Barack Obama to represent US interests in the region.

Kurt Campbell yesterday raised serious difficulties with the Prime Minister's plan, declaring that Asians hated to be compared with Europe.

Speaking at US Senate confirmation hearing before his expected swearing-in as assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, Dr Campbell said multilateral diplomacy in Asia was still "very shallow", and the success of any Asia-Pacific union would require deeper roots.

He made it clear that the US, rather than Australia, would see its role as harnessing and directing any large new institution that involved China and Japan.

In a surprise move, Mr Rudd announced 12 months ago that he wanted Australia to spearhead the creation of a regional institution spanning the Asia-Pacific region. Appointing veteran Australian diplomat Richard Woolcott to lobby regional leaders, Mr Rudd said his proposed union would include the US, China, Japan, India, Indonesia and other countries in the region. While the EU should not provide "an identikit model", the Prime Minister said he believed the Asia-Pacific region could learn much from the European grouping.

Only a fortnight ago, Mr Rudd demonstrated that his enthusiasm for setting up an Asia-Pacific union by 2020 remained undiminished, telling the annual Shangri La conference in Singapore that without a go-ahead for his proposal, he was concerned about "the possibility of strategic drift within our region".

Dr Campbell, a highly regarded policy expert who knows Australia well and is close to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, told the US Senate committee on foreign relations yesterday that Asia was "full of these meetings, both multilateral and mini-lateral", saying: "Everyone's got these."

He said he had met representatives of the Prime Minister when they were in Washington, and he was concerned about what growing numbers of such groups were asked to do.

"I know Asians hate to be compared with Europe, and it's a very different set of circumstances, and I appreciate that, but the diplomacy in Asia of a multilateral sort is still very shallow - and if it's to be successful it has to have deeper roots," Dr Campbell said.

Reported by The Australian in January as the US President's choice to fill his key Asia policy post, before the formal nomination was announced in April, Dr Campbell said greater interest in finding appropriate forums from China, Japan and the US, as well as Australia, was a healthy thing.

But he poured cold water on Mr Rudd's proposal that Australia should be at the "forefront", providing the ideas and drive to build a new regional architecture. "The key role of the US is to harness that energy and direct it in appropriate ways," Dr Campbell said.

A senior source close to the State Department said the remarks were a "put-down" of Mr Rudd's plan.

A spokesman for Mr Rudd told The Australian the Prime Minister had always said his "goal for an APC was long-term", and that he looked forward to working with the new Assistant Secretary of State.

He said Mr Rudd's proposal had prompted a range of comments from US officials. "I would ask not to reflect on just one official," he said.

Despite the Prime Minister's comments two weeks ago about the risk of strategic drift, the spokesman said yesterday Mr Rudd was an "unapologetic optimist" about the region's future and the role an Asia-Pacific community could play.

Dr Campbell, who is chief executive of the Centre for a New American Security, a Washington think tank, served as deputy assistant secretary of defence for Asia and Pacific affairs in the Clinton administration.

His blunt views on Mr Rudd's hope of leading a new regional organisation were expressed in response to a question from the Senate sub-committee's presiding chairman, Jim Webb, about Dr Campbell's familiarity with the Australian strategic initiative.

"Yeah, I had a chance to meet with the Prime Minister's representatives when they were through town, I had a chance to talk to them about it," Dr Campbell said.

"You know, everyone's got these - ASEAN plus three, we've got APEC, we've got the ASEAN regional forum. My concern is not in the multiplicity, almost exponential rise in these venues, but more in what these organisations are asked to do."

Mr Rudd's push for a new regional body has been described as his attempt to fashion a big organisation like the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation group, established two decades ago after lobbying by Labor prime minister Bob Hawke.

The Rudd proposal, which amounts to adding India to the 21-nation APEC, would seek a regional free-trade agreement and co-operation on issues including terrorism and long-term energy and resource security.

Dr Campbell, who received a congratulatory note from Mr Rudd after his appointment was leaked, has had a lengthy association with Australia through the Australian American Leadership Dialogue, founded by former businessman Phil Scanlan, now Australia's consul-general in New York.

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June 19, 2012 - 8:31 pm
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China seeks closer ties with Australia

October 31, 2009.

THE Chinese Vice-Premier, Li Keqiang, told a room filled with pro-China business heavyweights yesterday that Australia and China needed to ''reduce mistrust'' and work out their differences.

Mr Li, seated next to former prime minister Bob Hawke, told an audience including the mining magnate Clive Palmer that the purpose of his visit was to look to the future of the Australia-China relationship.

He called for enhanced dialogue ''and properly handling our differences so as to ensure that our bilateral relationship is not deviated … because of a particular incident at a particular time''.

Mr Li is the most senior Chinese politician to visit Australia since the relationship with China soured after the detention of Australian businessman Stern Hu this year and political debate over Chinalco's aborted attempt to invest in Rio Tinto.

In his only public speech, he offered a carrot for better ties by talking up the prospect of progress on long-stalled free trade agreement negotiations. He said China had the political will to reach an agreement and Australia was the strongest and largest economy among its potential free trade partners.

''For those existing problems in our negotiations … [we] should have a sense of urgency to resolve them,'' he said.

But Mr Li also called on both governments to ''oppose various forms of protectionism'' and said he hoped Australia would ''continue to promote a non-discriminatory policy on foreign investment''.

Tension continues to surround the increasing interest by Chinese state-owned companies in acquiring stakes in Australian miners.

Mr Palmer said he had received death threats since speaking out in favour of Chinese investment, which he says creates Australian jobs.

Mr Palmer said the Chinese see the Foreign Investment Review Board as ''a very racial policy'', but believed there had been a recent ''softening'' in the board's approach. Last week the Chinese coal producer Yanzhou gained FIRB approval to acquire the miner Felix Resources.

''The policy seems to be changing. We pointed out it was a racist policy. I think the vice-premier pointed out he didn't want to see racism stand between us,'' Mr Palmer said. However, the chairman of the Australia China Business Council, Frank Tudor, said the FIRB's approach to Chinese investment ''will never be totally black and white''. He welcomed Mr Li's comments on the free trade agreement as positive.

Mr Li signed agreements yesterday on education and illegal logging with the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, before meeting the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, in Canberra.

''The worst of the difficulties are behind us now,'' Mr Hawke said. ''I think it is an intelligent assessment by both countries that we are important to each other and the economic welfare of each of the countries is likely to be optimised if we have the most effective possible relationship.''

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June 19, 2012 - 8:48 pm
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China, Australia Should Build Trust, Li Says on Trip

Oct. 30 2009 (Bloomberg) -- Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang said China is committed to a free trade agreement with Australia and developing a broader relationship, as he began a three-day visit aimed at cementing ties strained in the past year.

The two nations should view their relationship “from a strategic height,” Li said at a lunch organized by the Australia China Business Council in Sydney today, adding he aims to “enhance mutual trust” during the trip.

Relations between the two countries have been frayed in recent months over a failed investment deal with Rio Tinto Group and the detention of Rio employee Stern Hu by China.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said this week Australia’s relationship with China is one of its most important and that the two governments must work through any difficulties in a “calm and measured way.”

Two-way trade between the two nations was worth A$74 billion ($68 billion) in 2008, compared with A$8 billion in 1995. Australia is pushing for a comprehensive free trade agreement with China and wants resource producers to enter into long-term supply contracts with Chinese companies.

The FTA should be approached “step by step” and in a “down to earth” manner, said Li, who’s scheduled to hold talks today with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in Canberra. The growth in trade has been a highlight in relations between the two countries, he added.

‘Strategic Choice’

The negotiations are a “strategic choice for both of us,” Li said through an interpreter. “Our political will of advancing these negotiations remains unchanged and our confidence of concluding negotiations and reaching agreement remains unchanged.”

Li, who arrived late yesterday, will also visit Brisbane, where he will meet with Queensland state leaders, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Agreements covering forestry, cultural heritage, illegal logging and education and training were signed earlier today, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s office said. China is Australia’s largest source of overseas student enrolments, with more than 125,000 last year.

Li and Gillard will discuss global challenges such as recovery from the financial crisis and addressing climate change, her office said.

Li’s visit is an “obvious gesture to say that the relationship is now returning to the status quo, which was a developing relationship,” Michael McKinley, senior lecturer in international relations and strategy at the Australian National University, said in a telephone interview today.

‘Economic Interests’

“There have been some distractions in the relationship,” McKinley said. “But economic interests are what count.”

Li, who has a doctorate in economics from Peking University, is seen as a possible successor to Premier Wen Jiabao in 2013.

Tensions between the two governments rose after Rio Tinto rebuffed a $19.5 billion investment from state-owned Aluminum Corp. of China in June. The detention of Hu, an Australian citizen, and three Chinese Rio executives in July further stained ties.

Hu has been formally arrested on suspicion of violating commercial secrets and taking bribes, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra said Oct. 23.

Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer’s visit to Australia in August escalated the spat. The government in Beijing accuses Kadeer of orchestrating clashes in July between Muslim Uighurs and ethnic Han Chinese that left more than 190 people dead in Xinjiang province. Kadeer denies the allegation.

‘Prosperous Win-Win’

Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who attended today’s lunch, told reporters the visit is a “very firm indication that those difficulties, major difficulties, are behind us and we can go forward now on what is going to be a very prosperous win-win for both countries.”

Australian regulators have approved more than 100 investment proposals from China to acquire Australian businesses since November 2007, Smith said this week.

Felix Resources Ltd. became the latest high-profile Chinese investment in Australia when the government agreed to allow Yanzhou Coal Mining Co.’s A$3.5 billion takeover offer on Oct. 23.

Li, accompanied by a 50-strong delegation, will visit New Zealand from Nov. 1-3 for talks with Prime Minister John Key and Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, the government in Wellington said in a statement today.

Administrative arrangements on educational cooperation, dairy products, temporary workers and meat products will be signed during the visit, according to the statement.

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June 19, 2012 - 8:53 pm
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U.S. eyes closer engagement with Asia through trade

Nov 14 2009

(Xinhua) -- Washington is ready to further engage with Asia through trade and hopes a closer linkage with the world's fastest growing economies will help the United States recover sooner from the recession, a senior U.S. official said here Saturday, as President Barack Obama is on his maiden visit to the region.

"If we want to create the jobs Americans need, we must gain access to Asia-Pacific markets," U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told businessmen attending the CEO Summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Singapore. "It is clear that Asia-Pacific economies are critical partners."

The top U.S. trade official also announced that Obama, who is leaving Japan for Singapore late Saturday on his first Asian trip, has promised Washington's commitment to engage in the four-member Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trading framework believed to have the potential to develop into a sweeping cross-Pacific free trade pact.

Signed by New Zealand, Chile, Singapore and Brunei in 2005, the Partnership is aimed to promote regional trade and economic integration.

"We believe a high-standard regional trade agreement under the Trans-Pacific Partnership can help bring home to the American people the jobs and economic prosperity," said Kirk, encouraging future participants to help bring the TPP into a platform to successfully integrate the Asia-Pacific economies.

Among 42 bilateral and regional free trade agreements signed between 21 APEC members -- which account for 50 percent of the world's output and 40 percent of the global trade -- the U.S. participates in just six, according to official data and media reports.

On the other hand, trade dispute between the United States and China has been rising over the past few months. Washington is being accused of taking up protectionism measures as it decided to slap anti-dumping duties on China-made steel pipes and tyres, a move believed to protect jobs at home.

Obama's first Asia trip, including his attendance at the APEC summit Sunday, is widely expected to accelerate Washington's efforts to engage with East Asia and solve trade issues with China, the powerhouse in the current global economic recovery.

The International Monetary Fund expects Asia to grow 2.75 percent in 2009 and 5.75 percent in 2010. On the contrary, in the U.S., the economy barely expanded 0.9 percent in the third quarter this year and the jobless rate hit a 26-year high of 10.2 percent in October.

Kirk said it is important for Asia-Pacific economies to cooperate at a time of crisis.

"We are confident and comforted by the reality that we are slowly turning the corner on the crisis, but we are sobered by the reality that we still have challenges ahead," Kirk said. "To bring the world back from the economic brink, we must all work together."

He said it is "imperative" for all Asia-Pacific economies to "break down long-standing barriers to trade and investments as well as newer impediments that obstruct trade and slow economic integration."

Obama, who is arriving in Singapore late Saturday, is expected to join other regional leaders -- including China's Hu Jintao, Japan's Yukio Hatoyama and Russia's Dmitry Medvedev -- to renew their commitment to an APEC vision to achieve free and open trade by 2010 among developed members, and by 2020 by developing members.

Leaders are also expected to pledge a political commitment to resume the World Trade Organization (WTO)-sponsored Doha Round of global trade talks which started in 2001 but repeatedly missed deadlines to complete over wide disputes on agriculture.

The reluctance of the U.S. and Europe to substantially roll back farm subsidies is blamed for the lack of progress of the Doha Round of trade talks, which aims to help poor countries prosper through global trade.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, among others, have called on Washington to advance the trade talks -- stalled after the U.S., Europe failed to agree with developing countries such as India and Brazil on agricultural trade.

"It is imperative to complete the Doha Round by next year. And we are seeking some real leadership by advanced countries, particularly the United States to bring the successful conclusion of the Doha Round," Najib told the APEC forum on Friday. 

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June 19, 2012 - 8:53 pm
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APEC leaders agree on new free trade zone.

Sun Nov 14, 2010

APEC leaders have committed themselves to establishing a massive free trade zone, which would cover more than half of the world's economic output.

World leaders are attending the APEC summit in Yokohama, Japan, and have also vowed to resist protectionism and to boost economic growth.

After almost two days of talks, the 21 leaders vowed to establish the free trade area of the Asia Pacific.

The zone would cover about 40 per cent of the world's population and more than half of the globe's economic output. The summit did not put a timetable on establishing the free trade area.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard says APEC leaders are committed to a framework for growth in the region.

"APEC has said that it too wants to show leadership on the hard grind of structural reforms that economies need to do as the world economy turns to growth," she said.

Just before the final communique was released, China's president warned that the global economy was confronted with "significant uncertainties" and protectionism was on the rise.

"Advanced economies have to cope with serious unemployment problems, while emerging market economies are confronted with asset price bubbles and inflationary pressure," Hu Jintao told the other leaders of the 21-member grouping.

"Moreover, protectionism in various forms has risen notably."

And Mr Hu reassured world leaders that his country posed no economic or territorial threat.

He says China was committed to being friendly and a good neighbour.

China and the United States still remain deadlocked over trade imbalances and currency distortions.

As they do at every summit, the APEC leaders also affirmed their commitment to concluding the long-elusive Doha round of free trade talks.

However, they also took some concrete steps to oil the wheels of trade at a time of rising concern that competition for exports to boost growth could lead to a wave of protectionism.

They extended a 2008 freeze on new barriers to investment or to trade in goods and services for another three years to 2013.

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June 19, 2012 - 8:57 pm
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Australia's influence on the rise: Lagarde IMF

May 04, 2012

AUSTRALIA'S renowned economic leadership will continue to extend its global influence in years to come, the head of the International Monetary Fund says.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde told the Global Foundation's Australian summit that the nation had always shown "real leadership'' in the turbulent, ever-fluctuating global economy.

The past five years have put heavier financial stress on everyone and created a greater demand for expertise and innovative, collaborative thinking on economics, she told the Melbourne summit via video link from Washington on Thursday.

"The interconnectedness between us all has never been more obvious as during and post the financial crisis,'' Ms Lagarde said.

The crisis had created long-term economic pessimism in many countries, where people now believed ``it used to be better and it will never be the same'', she said.

Australia was critical in combating this attitude with its dependably strong, practical, positive and progressive leadership, she said.

"It's an economy that is used to cycles, booms and busts, and throughout those cycles, the Australian enterprises, the Australian people, always remain positive and committed to improving the state of the Australian economy, and participating in improving the world as it is,'' Ms Lagarde said.

The Global Foundation, an Australian-based, non-government collective of private sector heavyweights, will continue its two-day summit on Friday, on the theme of Australia in the Asian Century.

Key topics at an open forum on Friday will include greening, feeding and improving economic connections with Asia.

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June 19, 2012 - 9:00 pm
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THE Australian dollar may surge to $US1.70 within two years.

Experts say Australian dollar worth $US1.70 by 2014

Dr Savouri chief economist at Toscafund Asset Management, in London, said the Australian currency would surge dramatically in the next few years as the US dollar lost its reserve status and Chinese authorities allowed the yuan to float more freely.

"China needs to gorge on US Treasury securities at the moment to keep its exchange rate stable, but come 2014 that policy will likely change," Dr Savouri said, arguing that China will shift away from holding US dollars and diversify into other currencies such as the Australian dollar.

In the past few days Commonwealth Bank and National Australia Bank have downgraded their forecasts for the Australian dollar for this and next year by up to US5c, based on lower expectations for interest rates, weaker export prices and an apparent slowdown in China.

But Dr Savouri believes such considerations will be swamped by global forces. He said quantitative easing was undermining confidence in the US dollar.

He also said that while a range of currencies would appreciate, the Australian dollar would be especially attractive, given the country's resource-based economy and Asian location.

"Appreciation in the Canadian dollar, which reflects an economy with similar fundamentals, will be limited by that country's exposure to the US," he said.

Dr Savouri pointed to large exchange rate adjustments in other countries: Russia's rouble from 1998, Indonesia's rupiah in 1997 and Argentina's peso in 2002.

Dr Savouri, who holds a PhD in economics and mathematics from the London School of Economics, doubts that economic growth is slowing in China.

"People are naive if they think there'll be any 'landing' in China," he said.

The London-based economist, who is visiting Sydney this week for a finance conference, said that in any case Chinese authorities could pump liquidity in quickly.

"On practically every measure, such as bank reserve requirements or interest rates, monetary policy is much tighter in China than in the West," he said.

Dr Savouri said he expected the realignment of currency values to be swift, sparked by one particular event.

"Next year will provide more economic fireworks than 2008," he said. "If, for instance, Russia or Norway announced that they would only part with their oil in return for a basket of currencies -- rather than US dollars alone -- many other countries would probably follow suit."

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