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US Treasury Secretary Predicts Better Times Ahead - 2001-09-08

U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill says the slowing U.S. economy will improve soon, despite new figures showing a sharp increase in unemployment.

At a meeting of key economic officials from 21 nations, Mr. O'Neill said the jump in the jobless rate was not surprising and no reason to change his prediction for economic recovery. Mr. O'Neill spoke at a meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Suzhou, China.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill says talks with fellow finance ministers made it clear how much other nations count on the U.S. economy to help lift them out of the current global economic slowdown.

Mr. O'Neill helps guide the world's largest economy which is a key market for most nations represented at the APEC conference. He said America is on track for a rebound heading into next year.

If it proves true, it would be good news for many other countries because tough times in the United States mean tough times for the nations that need to sell things in America to boost their own troubled economies.

China's Vice Minister of Finance, Jin Liqun says in the face of economic problems in the United States and around the world, governments must act with confidence, or risk worsening the situation.

Mr. Jin said APEC governments learned a painful lesson in the Asian financial crisis of 1997, and are now better prepared to act decisively and together. "I think this can send a strong message, a strong signal to the market," Mr. Jin says, "that finance ministers are dealing with these problems and we are confident we can solve the problem. If the market gets this strong message, things will be resolved."

China's Vice Minister Jin would not confirm a report on Bloomberg News that the finance ministers are discussing possible additional interest rate cuts in the United States and long-delayed reforms in Japan's banking system.

But earlier in the day, Japan's Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa said his gopvernment is determined to carry out structural reforms. He also said the current system needs to be changed at this time.

Experts say Japan's difficulties stem from a staggering $1.1 trillion in bad or risky loans extended to troubled companies. The problem loans amount to about a quarter of the gross domestic product in the world's second largest economy. The damage has been magnified by an 11-year economic slump in a Japanese economy that once seemed invincible.

Private business and financial leaders also gathered in Suzhou, and made a formal plea with the government financial experts and officials to make the laws governing investment and other business activities more uniform and predictable from country to country.

The APEC meeting concludes on Sunday.