ASEAN should target optimal post Covid-19 position: Vietnam leader

By Viet Anh   November 12, 2020 | 04:32 am PT
Vietnam’s Communist Party chief and State President Nguyen Phu Trong said ASEAN faces the question of defining its position in a post Covid-19 world while keeping its key values unchanged.

"It falls upon us to identify an optimal position for ASEAN in the post Covid-19 world. The strong will and aspiration to uphold a region of peace, stability, cohesion, unity and the rule of law should be further affirmed as a core value of Southeast Asia and the ASEAN community," Trong said at the opening ceremony of the 37th ASEAN Summit and related meetings Thursday.

Vietnamese Party chief and President Nguyen Phu Trong spoke at the Opening Ceremony of the 37th ASEAN Summit and related summits, November 12, in Hanoi. Photy by Giang Huy.

Vietnamese Party chief and President Nguyen Phu Trong speaks at the opening ceremony of the 37th ASEAN Summit in Hanoi, November 12, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.

The general secretary said that against the multi-colored backdrop of the world today, it was possible to note some brighter shades – cooperation in response to challenges in the Asia-Pacific region, for instance. ASEAN is at the front and the center of this process, he said.

In 2020, faced with a myriad of difficulties and challenges, ASEAN member states have manifested resolve and resilience. From political commitment at the highest level to well-coordinated actions of the entire ASEAN community and between member states, people have witnessed a cohesive and responsive ASEAN embodied in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Such spirit is equally visible in our efforts to recover from the impacts of the pandemic," the Party leader said.

"Our governments' capable response to Covid-19 has garnered a high level of public trust."

The 37th ASEAN Summit and related summits, the most important series of ASEAN meetings in the year, are being held November 12-15. The opening ceremony was attended by the ASEAN Secretary General, leaders of 10 member countries and guests from 20 other nations.

Party leader Trong noted that as the 2020 ASEAN Chair, Vietnam has been promoting a "cohesive and responsive" bloc. Vietnam always values the solidarity, support and assistance of fellow member states, partners and friends of ASEAN. This, by itself, reflects the spirit of the ASEAN Community in seeking to triumph over all adversity, maintain the momentum of integration, grow strong and reinforce the bloc’s centrality for a Southeast Asia of peace, friendship, cooperation, neutrality and stability.

He also said that Vietnam consistently pursued a diverse, multilateral external relations policy, seeking to be a reliable friend and partner as well as an active and responsible member of the international community, striving for peace, cooperation and development. Guided by this policy, Vietnam has gone from strength to strength over the past 75 years.

"Such spirit shall be the guiding compass for our foreign policy, all the more so as the global landscape is evolving in such a complex and unpredictable manner," Trong said.

The summit and its deliverables

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said that the opening ceremony that the 37th ASEAN Summit and related meetings with its partners shall be instrumental in realizing ASEAN’s 2020 key deliverables and priorities as also mapping out future cooperation directions.

First, ASEAN needs to focus its resources and efforts, at the highest level, to curb the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic; and in reshaping the post Covid-19 world. Then, the bloc needs to position itself in the eco-political shift among nations and the adjustments being made in global production and supply chains. The existing competitive advantages ASEAN enjoys must be supplemented with the values of modern science and technology, digital transformation capabilities, a high-quality workforce, and the ability to diversify input and output markets, the PM said.

"ASEAN shall continue to play a central and leading role in deepening and expanding dialogue and cooperation processes in the region and bringing together our partners to contribute to issues of common interest and concern, and effective response to challenges," he said.

On the sidelines of the summit, Cuba, Colombia and South Africa have joined the bloc’s Treaty for Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC).

ASEAN will also conclude negotiations and sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), reaffirming the block's strong commitment to trade liberalization and connectivity between ASEAN and its partners, said Phuc.

Challenges loom

Despite all the positives, a challenging road lay ahead, Party leader Trong cautioned. The loss of lives and property of millions in the region from natural disasters and diseases has been catastrophic. The people of ASEAN expect their leaders to adopt more effective and vigorous means of cooperation in curbing new waves of infection of the Covid-19 virus. They expect the leaders to find ways to sustain business operations, and join them in revitalizing economies. They expect effective assistance for returning to normal life and guaranteed social security for each and every individual and locality.

In the new context, ASEAN member states need to fortify their resilience and work together to realize recovery plans and initiatives via new, substantive and effective ways of operation and collaboration, he said.

The ASEAN-led frameworks for regional dialogue and cooperation should be fully harnessed. The bloc can make even greater contributions to promoting multilateralism, upholding international law, and strengthening the global multilateral system with the United Nations at its core, he added.

He noted that 2020 was coming to a close as complex and far-reaching changes were sweeping the world. "The Covid-19 pandemic has taken more than a million lives, upended our daily lives and threatened to reverse social and economic progress accrued over decades. More than ever, all countries need peace and stability for cooperation and development, and the people require attention, assistance and protection in overcoming this period of hardship, he said.

"This will only be possible if conflicts and friction over interests and differences in thinking, and approaches are settled with trust, constructive purpose and goodwill from all parties concerned."

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