Continuing obsession with US infuriates BNP Paribas economist

Andrew Freris, aka BNP Paribas'' "man in black", re-iterates Asia''s need to look at Asia as it seeks to solve its problems.

Even before the events of 9/11 created even more uncertainty on the global political and economic landscape, the popular perception held in Asia was that the region's economies would struggle to recover until the United States of America's economy bottomed out. 


Andrew Freris, the animated chief economist for the Asia Pacific region at BNP Paribas, however, is keen to stress that the performance of Asian economies is far more affected by regional and domestic concerns than events in the US.

In particular, Freris holds the opinion that the role of export trade with the US and its impact on GDP growth had been exaggerated, while the importance of intra-regional trade has been ignored.

At a press briefing in Hong Kong, Freris emphasises that his opinion has not been altered by 9/11. "The United States is not the only factor driving Asian financial cycles," he says. "We are paying far too much attention to the US and far too little on Asia."

Freris, who stresses that his sentiments are not anti-American and, interestingly, that he is 'only interested in making money for the bank and its clients,' says that the recent hysteria in the region ignores what was happening before the attacks on the US.

"If we look at what happened before and after the World Trade Center attacks, the events may have made things go down a little further, but has changed nothing in terms of trends," he asserts. "To see 9/11 as a key event in finance and business cycles is wrong. It has just changed things that were already happening. For example, we expected the US to bottom out in Q4: we've now postponed that forecast for another three months."

Freris also re-iterates his view that any impact that the US may have had varies from country to country. Domestic growth is more significant than exports for countries such as India and China - the US dependency argument is not universally valid.

Even in countries where the dependence on the US is said to be greatest - in Hong Kong and Singapore for example - US exports typically account for around a third of all trade. The remainder mostly comes from intra-regional trade, which suggests that even in export-led countries; the impact of the US has been overplayed.

Freris believes that 9/11 has been used as a convenient excuse to hide exiting deficiencies. "Governments have made the attacks on the WTC a scapegoat, which is very convenient," he concludes. "I do not want to trivialize this, but it has been easy to put 100% blame on 'The WTC effect'. All parties are using it, from governments and companies right through to taxi drivers and waiters."

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