April 6, 2018 / 10:56 AM / 8 months ago

ASEAN confident of growth outlook despite trade tensions: Singapore finance minister

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are confident of their economic growth outlook despite rising global trade tensions, Singapore Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Friday.

Heng’s comments at the end of a meeting of the region’s finance ministers and central bank governors come against the backdrop of tit-for-tat trade disputes between the world’s two biggest economies - the United States and China - which has the potential to disrupt supply chains around the world.

“We sounded the warning about the risk of rising protectionism and the possibility of trade disputes deteriorating,” Heng said.

“But at the same time we had very detailed briefings from the IMF, the World Bank, and...the assessments done by many private sector economists have been quite consistent that the growth momentum for 2018, into 2019, is likely to be maintained.”

“That gives us confidence that the central scenario remains valid.”

Singapore, a key trading hub and financial center, is often seen as a bellwether for the global economy because its exports equate to around 200 percent of its GDP.

China warned on Friday it would fight back “at any cost” with fresh trade measures if the United States continues on its path of protectionism, hours after President Donald Trump threatened to slap an additional $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods.

The ASEAN region - which includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam - grew 5.2 percent in 2017. In a joint statement, ASEAN said it expects that growth momentum to be sustained in 2018.

Reporting by John Geddie; Editing by Kim Coghill

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