After the APEC Summit: Taking Stock of the Tigers

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VANCOUVER: APEC summits once had the atmosphere of a ticker tape parade trumpeting the miraculous economic growth of Asian economies. This week, however, the Asian Tigers limped to Vancouver in search of a solution to the currency crisis ravaging their economies. Even though the summit was upbeat about Asia's economic fundamentals, its decision to create an IMF bailout formula, with attendant political risks, was the strongest indicator of the depth of the crisis.

"The message from APEC is that there is a serious crisis in Asia, but if everybody takes the necessary, and in some cases painful, steps, there won't be an Asian meltdown," says TIME White House Correspondent Jay Branegan. "They're saying 'The Asian miracle is not over, the Asian miracle is taking a breather,' and they hope it'll be a relatively short breather, because the economic fundamentals remain sound."

On the up side for Washington, the crisis weakened Asian resistance to extending free trade agreements, resulting in liberalization of trade in nine additional sectors. But, says Branegan, the harsh austerity and privatization programs that accompany IMF loans carry are likely to cause "a long period of political turmoil in Asia." Which means that it may be some time before the tigers again strut their stuff.