|Vietnamese foreign minister Bùi Thanh Sơn attends the ASEAN-Canada Ministerial Meeting held via video conference yesterday. — Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
HÀ NỘI — ASEAN and Canada say they will launch negotiations for a free trade agreement in 2021 and pledged to enhance economic, trade and investment partnerships as well as stabilise supply chain linkages.
Foreign ministers of ASEAN countries and Canada were speaking at the ASEAN-Canada Ministerial Meeting held via video conference yesterday in the framework of the 54th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting.
Canadian foreign minister Marc Garneau affirmed that Canada has always attached great importance to its relationship with ASEAN, emphasising its desire to elevate relations with the bloc, and participate more widely and deeply in ASEAN-chaired cooperation mechanisms.
The country also wished to soon launch negotiations for an ASEAN-Canada Free Trade Agreement, he said.
Canada reaffirmed it would continue implementing cooperation programs in education and training, and high-quality human resources development such as the Canada-ASEAN Scholarships and Educational Exchanges for Development (SEED) program.
It will also support the bloc in natural disaster management, education, health, gender equality, innovative technology application, cybersecurity, among others.
As the country coordinator of ASEAN-Canada partnership, Myanmar welcomed the continued progress of the relationship.
Despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, two-way turnover reached US$16.2 billion and the investment from Canada to ASEAN countries reached US$5 billion in 2020.
ASEAN countries said they highly appreciated Canada’s announcement that it would contribute CA$3.5 million (US$2.8 million) to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund and donate a medical supply package worth CA$4.5 million.
The two sides agreed to prioritise supporting each other in response to COVID-19 and in mitigation of the impacts of the pandemic as well as in promoting comprehensive and sustainable recovery post-pandemic.
They will also promote cooperation through the implementation of the Action Plan for 2021-2025.
The two sides also agreed to coordinate in organising activities to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the ASEAN-Canada partnership in 2022.
Discussing regional and international issues of mutual interest, the two sides highlighted the importance of maintaining peace, security and stability in the region, especially in the South China Sea.
Canada supports ASEAN’s promotion of cooperation and dialogue, building trust in the region, upholding international laws, building rules-based regional order and settling disputes by peaceful means in accordance with international laws, including 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and completion of building the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC).
Speaking at the event, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bùi Thanh Sơn welcomed Canada’s wish to deepen its relationship with ASEAN and to actively contribute to ASEAN efforts to maintain peace, stability and development in the region.
The minister asked Canada to help ASEAN to have timely and full access to COVID-19 vaccines, and strengthen specific measures to help developing countries address impacts caused by the pandemic.
Việt Nam supported the launch of negotiations for an ASEAN-Canada FTA, facilitating trade and investment, he said.
The minister suggested the two sides promote cooperation on women, peace and security.
The Vietnamese delegate emphasised that the maintenance of peace, security, free navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea, a critical maritime route, is in the best interests of countries including ASEAN member states and Canada.
Affirming ASEAN’s principled and consistent stance on the South China Sea, the minister underscored the importance of enhancing confidence building, the exercise of restraint and non-militarisation as well as settlement of disputes in accordance with international laws including 1982 UNCLOS.
The Vietnamese representative affirmed that ASEAN is actively cooperating with China in building an effective and efficient COC in accordance with international laws and the 1982 UNCLOS while asking Canada to continue its support for ASEAN’s efforts in this matter. — VNS