ASEAN summits affirm association’s centrality in region: Ambassador

The 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits and related summits have affirmed the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)'s central role, while giving chances to the bloc to have a voice in regional and international issues, said Ambassador Nguyen Hai Bang, Permanent Representative of Vietnam to ASEAN.

Speaking to Vietnam News Agency (VNA)'s correspondents in Jakarta, Bang said that the events are taking place in a special context with complicated developments both inside and outside the region.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen no signs of decline, while the situation in Myanmar has remained unstabled since early 2021, and many new political developments in the world have affected international relations and the geopolitical situation in the Asia-Pacific region, the ambassador noted.

He said that major focuses of 10 ASEAN member countries during the summits include measures to bring the region out from COVID-19 in a fastest way. They have reached consensus on approach to the pandemic fight and are seeking a common voice in a mechanism of vaccine distribution so that all countries can get the vaccines in an equal, fast and effective manner, Bang said.

The diplomat said that the association has decided to spend 10 million USD from the ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund to buy vaccines through UNICEF to provide for people in ASEAN countries and the ASEAN Secretariat's staff in 2022.

Regarding post-pandemic economic recovery, ASEAN leaders paid great attention to recovering tourism and ensuring smooth trade and travel activities for entrepreneurs and people through the opening of green and safe corridors, he said.

Bang said that they have also focused on strengthening connectivity in infrastructure, transport and tourism, as well as smoother import-export procedures and digital connectivity.

Other focuses of the events were the intra-bloc issues and the building of a strong Commnity as well as the maintenance of solidarity, unity and central role of the bloc in the shaping regional economic and security architecture, he said.

Bang said that this year, Vietnam has worked closely with other ASEAN countries in implementing initiatives put forth in 2020 under the ASEAN Chairmanship of Vietnam, including narrowing the development gap within the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI), and improving the competitiveness of ASEAN in the world. This year, Vietnam plays the role as the Chair of the IAI Task Force.

Vietnam has conducted consultations with many partners and ministries and sectors of ASEAN member countries to build a model for the project to narrow the development gap, while adding some new contents to the IAI, including the scaling down of gaps among sub-regions to optimise resources from sub-regional cooperation frameworks, he said, adding that in November, Vietnam is scheduled to host a ASEAN high-level forum on sub-regional cooperation towards sustainable development and inclusive growth in the region.

This year, Bang said, the Vietnamese Permanent Mission to ASEAN has engaged in the negotiations of a series of draft documents and joint statements. It has coordinated with the Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN (CPR), partner countries and the ASEAN Secretariat to build a plan to implement the IAI in the 2021-2025 period, and called on partners to continue supporting the scheme, he said. The mission is also taking the role as the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the ASEAN Foundation and is working to promote cultural exchange and popularise ASEAN's image to the world, he added.

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