ASEAN Leaders Agree on Pandemic-Coping Measures, Multilateral Cooperation

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) concluded its 37th summit and related meetings on Sunday, giving priority to the Covid-19 pandemic response steps and multilateral cooperation commitments.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, speaking at the closing ceremony, said that the bloc's leaders exchanged views and agreed on a variety of drastic steps to encourage cooperation to resolve the challenges raised by Covid-19 and to speed up economic recovery in ASEAN countries.

Many cooperation projects, including the Covid-19 ASEAN Response Fund, the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies and the ASEAN Regional Center on Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases, have been announced and are coming into force, Phuc said.

The ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Mechanism and its synchronous implementation plan have also been adopted by the leadership to help individuals and businesses to rapidly resolve the effects of the Covid-19 epidemic and stabilize socio-economic life, the Prime Minister said.

Many important issues have been agreed by leaders to establish a new driving force for the relationship between ASEAN and its partners, which affirms a strong commitment to both multilateral cooperation and economic liberalization, Phuc said.

Notably, under the framework of the event, representatives from ASEAN countries and five partners, namely China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement Sunday, launching the world's biggest free-trade bloc.

The signing is of major importance not only to ASEAN but also to global trade as it will help mitigate the negative impacts of Covid-19, improve business operations and build employment for individuals, Phuc said at a press briefing on Sunday afternoon.

The first ever ASEAN Women's Leaders' Summit was also held over four days to promote the role of women and contribute to the growth of the bloc in the post-pandemic era.

During the meetings, a record high of over 80 documents have been adopted and signed, Phuc said.

The 37th ASEAN Summit and related meetings took place from Thursday to Sunday through video conferences under the chair of Vietnam. A ceremony to hand the ASEAN Chairmanship over to Brunei Darussalam was held after the meetings. 

Founded in 1967, ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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