France urges joint effort to combat rising food and oil prices

FRANCE’S finance minister has urged Europe and Asia to work together to ease the effects of soaring fuel and food prices.

Christine Lagarde made the comments as South Korea,, hostings talks between finance ministers from the two continents, grappled with a crippling strike by truck drivers over high oil prices.

Lagarde told ministers at the Asia-Europe Meeting that there are concerns “about prices of food and prices of fuel and social unrest that result from such movements.

“This is indeed amplified and far more dramatic in emerging economies and in the developing world, but clearly this is the issue we share,” she said on the resort island of Jeju.

Surging food and fuel prices have triggered protests in many nations and even riots in some. A strike by 10,000 South Korean truckers has crippled major ports.

The G8 meeting of finance ministers in Osaka warned that high oil and food prices pose “a serious challenge to stable growth worldwide” and may worsen poverty and stoke global inflation.

The Jeju meeting is being attended by finance ministers or their deputies from 27 EU countries and 16 Asian nations, plus officials from six international organisations. The ASEM forum has been the main channel for economic and financial cooperation between the two continents since its 1997 inception.

In addition to world economic challenges, the three main agenda topics will be regional economic integration and how Asia can learn from Europe’s experience; market-based approaches to climate change; and cooperation on infrastructure finance and microfinance.

Europe’s trade shortfall with China — €159bn in 2007 — is also expected to be among key topics at the meeting.


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