Leaders from the Association of South East Asian Nations – or ASEAN – have put resisting protectionism at the forefront of their fight against the world economic downturn.Before taking time out from their 14th summit schedule to meet the King and Queen of the host country Thailand, the leaders of the ten countries so dependent on exports signed a free trade agreement with Australia and New Zealand. That is believed to be worth 38-billion euros to the region’s economies. They agreed to relax monetary policy, and promised to work with the Group of 20 nations on reforming international financial institutions. The Thai Prime Minister said there are severely testing times ahead. He said as the financial crisis deepens, the world will look towards the region for action and confidence. ASEAN has already moved towards becoming a single EU-style community, with a combined output worth 1.5-trillion euros, and a population of 570-million people. A major worry for the leaders at the summit is how many of those will become unemployed because of the financial crisis.