Vietnam hands over ASEAN baton to Brunei

By Viet Anh   November 15, 2020 | 05:27 am PT
Vietnam concluded its role as ASEAN chair for 2020 and transferred the chairpersonship hammer to Brunei on Sunday.
Vietnamese PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc (R), handed over the ASEAN chairmanship hammer to Bruneis Ambassador to Vietnam. Photo by the World and Vietnam Report.

PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc (R) handed over the ASEAN chairpersonship hammer to Brunei's Ambassador to Vietnam. Photo courtesy of the World and Vietnam Report.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc handed over the bloc’s chairpersonship hammer to Brunei Ambassador Pengiran Haji Sahari bin Pengiran Haji Salleh at the closing ceremony of the 37th ASEAN Summit in Hanoi.

In an online speech, Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah congratulated Vietnam for its successful ASEAN chairpersonship. He called on ASEAN to maintain the bloc's unity and centrality in the coming time.

Brunei will be the ASEAN chair from January 1 to December 31, 2021. The theme of ASEAN 2021 is "We care. We prepare. We prosper."

PM Phuc said 2020 has been a challenging year with a huge amount of work in the context of complications ensuing from the Covid-19 pandemic. "After five decades of establishment and development, ASEAN has continued to confirm its unity, self-reliance and capacity to flexibly adapt to challenges."

At the 37th ASEAN Summit and related events in Hanoi, ASEAN and its partners approved as many as 80 documents including the RCEP trade deal, a record in the bloc's history.

"The 37th ASEAN Summit and related summits have been concluded successfully, opening a new path where member countries cooperate for peace and prosperity in the time to come," Phuc said at a press conference after the summit's closing ceremony.

Referring to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact that was signed under the summit’s aegis, Phuc said it carries remarkable significance for ASEAN and international trade.

"The RCEP, along with other measures, will help foster trade and investment flows within ASEAN and partners, limit supply chain disruption, and speed up production and business that increase jobs for people."

The pact was signed Sunday by leaders of 10 ASEAN member states as well as Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. Together the signatories account for 29 percent of the global GDP.

All signatories have also agreed that the door is open for India to return to the treaty’s fold, after withdrawing earlier from the negotiations, if New Delhi deems it is necessary, Phuc said.

ASEAN and partners also agreed that the challenges posed by Covid-19 have shown that ensuring cooperation, peace and stability has become a more urgent task than ever.

Summit participants stressed the importance of respecting the rule of law, sovereignty of countries and their legitimate rights in accordance with international law. They affirmed their commitment to build a peaceful, stable, friendly, cooperative South China Sea region where freedom of navigation and overflight is secured.

"All activities on the sea need to be compliant with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea - UNCLOS 1982. Nations also concurred on the need for self restraint, implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety, and establishing an effective Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (COC) in accordance with international laws, including the 1982 UNCLOS," the PM said.

The South China Sea is known in Vietnam as the East Sea.

Answering a query on competition between major powers, Phuc said it was a challenging issue for ASEAN in 2020, impacting the bloc’s unity.

"Vietnam in particular and ASEAN in general hope that powerful countries have positive relationships, healthy competition, respect for the bloc's centrality and make substantial contributions to peace, security and cooperation in the region," he said.

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