HÀ NỘI — By successfully organising the teleconferenced 36th ASEAN Summit amid the complexities of COVID-19, Việt Nam has once again affirmed its proactive and responsible chairmanship of ASEAN in 2020, which is also the common assessment shared by many foreign leaders and experts.
With statements adopted, including the “ASEAN Leaders’ Vision Statement on A Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN: Rising Above Challenges and Sustaining Growth” and the “ASEAN Declaration on Human Resources Development for the Changing World of Work”, the 36th ASEAN Summit and related meetings wrapped up successfully on June 26 as the 10 member countries showed the unanimity to coordinate with one another to effective cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and promote socio-economic recovery in the region.
This is the first time a regular ASEAN summit has been held online during the 53-year history of the bloc.
ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi said the theme “cohesive and responsive ASEAN” for Việt Nam’s ASEAN Chairmanship this year suits the current context, and the 36th summit is a concrete demonstration of the bloc’s solidarity and leadership as seen in the strong regional cooperation.
He added that as ASEAN Chair, the country has done much and shown the strong leadership in guiding the region’s collective response to the pandemic. He also highly valued Việt Nam’s contributions, especially its assistance for some ASEAN members and dialogue partners in dealing with COVID-19.
Under Việt Nam’s guidance, activities have been carried out to set up the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund, warehouses of medical supplies and standard operating procedures in public health emergencies. The country has also launched discussions on the post-2025 ASEAN Vision.
These will help ASEAN be better cohesive and responsive during the regional integration process while adapting to the current “new normal” status and learning important lessons, according to the Secretary-General.
Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith also spoke highly of ASEAN’s recent successes.
Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister of Laos Thongphane Savanphet said Việt Nam has fulfilled its role as ASEAN Chair over the past six months, and that despite numerous difficulties, Việt Nam has led ASEAN countries in boosting cooperation against COVID-19 and in other activities. He expressed his belief that under Việt Nam’s chairmanship, the bloc will continue to successfully carry out the initiatives and agreements its members have put forth this year.
Echoing the view, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said this ASEAN summit reflected Việt Nam’s capacity in guiding the bloc, regardless of difficulties caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
Senior analyst Lê Thu Hương from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said ASEAN members believe in Việt Nam’s diplomatic capacity, even when the summit had to take place online.
Meanwhile, Ahmad Ibrahim Almutaqqi, Director of the ASEAN Studies Programme at Indonesia’s Habibie Centre, said the summit discussed not only measures to deal with COVID-19 but also those for post-pandemic economic recovery. It was also an opportunity for ASEAN, under the guidance of Việt Nam as ASEAN Chair, to continue moving forward.
According to him, COVID-19 has disrupted the bloc’s activities at a certain level, but Việt Nam has done its job well and strived to ensure the proper functioning of ASEAN, including in organising high-level meetings.
Prof. Aleksius Jemadu, another Indonesian scholar, said Việt Nam has played its role well in guiding ASEAN member states to maintain the grouping’s central role and solidarity to sustain regional stability.
He believed Việt Nam is in the best position to uphold the role of ASEAN leadership in this decisive time, adding that all ASEAN countries expect Việt Nam to effectively play its role in uniting ASEAN and prioritising the promotion of ASEAN’s centrality during its chairmanship of the bloc.
Talking about the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Chheang Vannarith, President of the Phnom Penh-based Asian Vision Institute, said during its ASEAN Chairmanship this year, Việt Nam has been effectively coordinating and promoting negotiations on the RCEP so as to reach consensus and finalise the talks although India opted out of the deal at the last minute.
The 36th ASEAN Summit and the earlier Special ASEAN Summit and ASEAN+3 Summit on COVID-19 response, held in April, are highlights of Việt Nam’s chairmanship of the bloc.
The country has shown its activeness, proactiveness and sense of responsibility in guiding ASEAN to cope with unprecedented challenges, thereby helping to strengthen solidarity and unanimity of the grouping. These are also favourable prerequisites for it to fulfill its chairmanship role for the rest of 2020. — VNS
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