Asia is doubling the size of its foreign currency reserve safety net to $240 billion, finance ministers and central bank officials announced Thursday following a 13-nation meeting in Manila. The reserve funds a multilateral currency swap agreement aimed at protecting Asian markets from global economic crises.

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus China, Japan and South Korea known as Asean+3 said in a statement following the meeting that the agreement includes establishing a line of credit to reduce its dependence on International Monetary Fund loans.

The agreement to promote transnational investment in the region's $15 trillion government bonds market strengthens the firepower of Asean+3 in a very significant way, Rajat Nag, managing director general of the Asian Development Bank, said in an interview with Bloomberg News.

The move was spurred in large part by concerns over whether the European sovereign debt problem will spread globally. The three giants of the group -- Japan, South Korea and China -- pledged to boost cross-investment in government bonds.

The prolonged sovereign debt crisis in the euro zone could continue to weigh on Asean+3 economies through trade and financial channels. Inflationary pressures remain, driven, in particular, by rising oil prices, said a statement by the group obtained by Reuters.

Asian countries established the Chang Mai Initiative Multilateralization (CMIM) in March 201O. The CMIM was precluded by a series of smaller swap agreements that emerged following the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Memories of 1997-1998 keep coming in the way and that is why each country has built significant foreign reserves, Rajat Nag, ADB managing director general, told Reuters.