ASEAN, US prioritise COVID-19 response, post-pandemic recovery

VOV.VN - The Foreign Ministers of ASEAN member states and the United States agreed to give priority to the fight against COVID-19 and post-pandemic economic recovery as part of future co-operation, during a meeting on August 4.

Other areas of future co-operation include trade and investment, digital transformation, renewable energy, vaccine production, women's rights, and climate change.

Addressing the ASEAN-US meeting which took place virtually, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that the Biden administration places great importance on the strategic partnership with ASEAN.

The US supports the solidarity, unity, and centrality of ASEAN, as well as the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP), he said, adding the US is therefore keen to promote the dynamic and effective strategic partnership with the bloc on the basis of mutual respect, seeking to jointly build an open, inclusive, and prosperous regional architecture.

Blinken went on to affirm that the US will continue to take the lead in promoting multilateral co-operation in response to COVID-19 as it strives to increase production capacity of vaccines whilst ensuring an adequate, safe, and effective supply.

According to the Secretary, the US has offered US$160 million in funds and will provide continued assistance to regional partners in responding to the pandemic. He also announced the Biden administration’s decision to contribute US$500,000 to the ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund.

In response, Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith of Laos, the co-ordinator of the ASEAN-US partnership, welcomed the US’s commitment to promoting strong co-operation with ASEAN and the Southeast Asian region in general, especially in terms of enhancing the capacity building in health care and donating vaccines to the bloc. He expressed his great appreciation for the US temporarily lifting the vaccine copyright within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The ASEAN Foreign Ministers welcomed positive progress made in bilateral co-operation over recent times, despite the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting two-way trade turnover between the bloc and the US reached US$308.3 billion in 2020, making the US the second largest trading partner of ASEAN. In addition, the US continues to maintain its role as the largest foreign direct investor (FDI) in the bloc, with investment reaching US$34.7 billion.

Both sides agreed to work closely together in order to contribute to maintaining peace, security, and stability in the region, including maritime security and safety in the South China Sea, known as the East Sea in Vietnam.

At the meeting, the US reaffirmed its support for ASEAN’s stance on the South China Sea issue. It welcomed the bloc’s role in promoting and building confidence in the region to ensure the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), in addition to the development of an effective and efficient Code of Conduct in the waters (COC) in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The US also welcomed ASEAN’s role in promoting dialogue and reconciliation efforts, as well as in assisting Myanmar to find a peaceful solution to its political deadlock. Indeed, they voiced their support for ASEAN’s five-point consensus on Myanmar which was reached at the ASEAN Leaders’ Summit in April.

At the meeting, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son suggested that the US continue to support the bloc in swiftly and adequately accessing COVID-19 vaccines, and quickly transferring vaccine production technology to ASEAN countries.

Vietnam expects the US will enhance capacity building in preventive medicine for regional countries through the regional representative office network of the US Centre for Diseases Control, Minister Son said.  

He reaffirmed ASEAN’s commitment to creating favourable conditions for US businesses as they seek to expand their investment and business in the region.

The Vietnamese FM also suggested that the US continue to support ASEAN in narrowing the development gap and ensuring sustainable growth in the bloc’s sub-regions, including the Mekong Sub-region, through the Mekong-US Partnership framework.

At the end of the meeting, Indonesia took on the role of the coordinator of the ASEAN-US partnership for the 2021 - 2024 period.

The ASEAN – US Ministerial Meeting was held as part the 54th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and Related Meetings virtually taking place from August 2 to August 7.  

Brunei is currently Chair of the ASEAN Year 2021. 

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