Thirteen East and Southeast Asian countries agreed Sunday to set up an emergency $120 billion fund to provide liquidity to any of them in need of help during the economic downturn.

Japan also unveiled a scheme to supply up to 6 trillion yen ($61.54 billion) to support nations hit by economic crisis.

The moves, announced on the sidelines of the Asian Development Bank's annual meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali, could lead to some optimism in regional markets on Monday, one analyst said.

This news is not a surprise but confirmation may be taken by the optimists as a reason to continue the recent rally, said Kirby Daley, senior strategist at Newedge Group in Hong Kong.

It's definitely a step in the right direction for Asia to wean itself from dependence on the West. However, implementation is unlikely to have a sustainable impact on Asian economies in the absence of a robust U.S. consumer.

Under the plan, China and Japan would each contribute 32 percent to the regional fund, known as the Chiang Mai Initiative.

South Korea would provide 16 percent while the rest would come from the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The fund will give emergency balance of payments support in case any of the countries experienced the kind of capital flight that marked the Asian financial crisis of 1997/98.

The current global situation requires more concerted efforts to enhance confidence, maintain financial stability, and prevent further decline in economic growth, a joint statement by the region's finance ministers said.

The deepening global economic downturn, coupled with heightened risk aversion in financial markets, (has) adversely impacted trade and investment in the region.


The fund will be launched by the end of the year, and a surveillance unit to monitor the region's economies will be established with the help of the ADB, it said.

In addition, the meeting decided to set up a $500 million guarantee for local currency corporate bonds issued within the region.

ASEAN includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Underlining the importance of the Asian regional bond market, Standard & Poor's announced Sunday it was launching an ASEAN credit rating scale that provides additional transparency about the credit risk of borrowers active in the region.

ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda also told the bank's annual meeting Sunday that Asia needs to develop its debt markets to better channel the region's massive savings into investments and stave off another crisis

No discussions have yet been held on what currency the regional fund will be based on, but Japan's separate plan, announced by Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano, is aimed at promoting the use of the yen in the ASEAN region, Tokyo said.

This brings our contribution to supporting regional liquidity to about $100 billion, Yosano said.

In addition to the two initiatives, he said Japan will introduce a framework to guarantee samurai bonds, yen-denominated debt issued in Japan by foreign governments and firms, up to 500 billion yen ($5.13 billion).

The ADB itself also plans to ramp up lending to about $33 billion in 2009-2010, almost a 50 percent increase over 2007-2008, to counter the crisis. The Manila-based multilateral lender is funded by donations mainly from Japan, the United States and European nations.

The economic crisis in Asia has had much more severe impact than probably we have reckoned, ADB Managing Director General Rajat Nag told Reuters.

The ADB can only be a part player in this but the impact of the crisis is very real. It's more than just economic numbers, it's a social crisis, Nag said.

Jong-Wha Lee, the ADB's acting chief economist, said Asian economies had probably reached the bottom of the crisis but a major recovery still hinged on the revival of demand in developed nations.

It is almost impossible for the region to return to the boom seen until 2007 before demand from the advanced economies fully regains strength, Lee said.

The ADB has forecast that Asian economies will grow only 3.4 percent in 2009, the slowest pace since the Asian financial crisis a decade earlier. It sees growth recovering to 6.3 percent next year.

(Additional reporting by David Dolan)

(Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Valerie Lee)