|Vietnamese foreign minister Bùi Thanh Sơn speaks at the ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting held online on Friday. —VNA/VNS Photo
HÀ NỘI — ASEAN and European Union (EU) member countries agreed to ensure a peaceful, secure and stable environment in the region, creating favourable conditions for countries to focus efforts on coping with the COVID-19 pandemic at the ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting held online yesterday.
During the talks, the representatives from ASEAN and the EU agreed to consider the possibility of an ASEAN-EU Free Trade Agreement in the future.
Vietnamese foreign minister Bùi Thanh Sơn attended the meeting which was held within the framework of the ongoing 54th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting.
Participants also emphasised the importance of peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation and overflight in the East Sea (known internationally as the South China Sea).
The two sides also shared expectations for an effective and substantial Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) in accordance with international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Participating countries applauded ASEAN and EU efforts to develop their relations to a Strategic Partnership, affirming a strong commitment to promoting cooperation on the basis of shared values, common principles and interests.
Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, representative from the EU said the bloc attached great importance to relations with ASEAN and wanted to further promote their strategic partnership. The representative said the EU has contributed over 3 billion euros via the COVAX mechanism for low- and middle-income countries, including the provision of 33 million doses of vaccine and would continue supplying the vaccines to Southeast Asian nations.
The EU representative proposed the two sides focus on enhancing economic, trade and investment exchanges, digital transformation and digital economy and soon start dialogues on energy issues.
On behalf of ASEAN, the Singaporean Foreign Minister said the EU was always an important partner of ASEAN. The EU is the second biggest investor in ASEAN with a total investment capital of US$7.6 billion.
ASEAN proposed the EU continue supporting COVID-19 prevention and control initiatives as well as coordinate with ASEAN in ensuring equal and effective vaccine access, supply, research and development in the region.
ASEAN and EU member countries agreed to prioritise coordination in coping with COVID-19 and promote a full and sustainable recovery.
Addressing the meeting, Foreign Minister Sơn proposed the EU help ASEAN access more COVID-19 vaccines, as well as vaccine production technology.
He also proposed the EU enhance coordination with ASEAN to stabilise the supply chain, facilitate trade and investment exchanges and study the possibility of a free trade deal between the groups on the basis of bilateral FTAs already established between the EU and a number of ASEAN countries, including Việt Nam.
He stressed the importance of the strategic partnership between ASEAN and the EU which contributed to multilateral cooperation and regional connection and applauded the bloc for its important contributions to global efforts in COVID-19 prevention and control, technology application, innovation and climate change adaptation.
He noted that ASEAN and the EU shared interests and responsibility for maintaining peace, stability and maritime security and safety in the East Sea and reaffirmed ASEAN’s consistent principled stance on the East Sea issue. — VNS