BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Tuesday kick-started its 38th and 39th summits under the chairmanship of Brunei via virtual conference, with fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and promoting economic recovery high on the agenda.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said the ASEAN member states will take this opportunity to consider ASEAN’s community building efforts in realising the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.
He noted that ASEAN countries will also discuss other issues, including further strengthening the resilience towards regional recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and enhancing cooperation with dialogue partners.
Lim Jock Hoi, secretary general of the ASEAN, said in his greeting speech that despite the Covid-19 pandemic challenges, ASEAN’s economic outlook remains resilient.
He said ASEAN’s economic recovery from this pandemic will depend on a more even distribution of vaccination rollout across the region, which will ensure the continued fair and credible access to the vaccines for all people.
The ASEAN summits, with the theme “We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper,” is scheduled to discuss a number of issues, including further strengthening the resilience of the ASEAN Community towards regional recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, enhancing the preparedness of the ASEAN in addressing common challenges; seizing new opportunities in pursuit of shared prosperity; and maintaining cooperation towards achieving the region’s long-term goals.
As this year marks the 30th anniversary of China-ASEAN dialogue relations, expectations are also high that the upcoming summits would herald a new chapter for the relationship, which has grown from strength to strength and weathered difficulties and challenges, including the pandemic.
Meanwhile, both ASEAN members and their dialogue partners hope the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a mega trade deal between 10 ASEAN member states plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand which was signed last November, will take effect soon to promote regional trade and investment, thus helping with the post-pandemic economic recovery in the region.
Scheduled for Tuesday to Thursday, the 38th and 39th ASEAN summits and related summits will also be joined by leaders from ASEAN’s dialogue partners, including China, Japan, South Korea, India, the United States, Australia and Russia, among others.
Established in 1967, ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Brunei is the ASEAN chair for 2021.