|The 38th ASEAN Summit held virtually on Tuesday. — Photo from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs|
HÀ NỘI — Vaccine self-reliance and equitable access would be key to ASEAN recovery, stressed the regional bloc’s leaders at the 38th ASEAN Summit held on Tuesday as COVID-19 continues to challenge socio-economic developments in the region.
ASEAN leaders noted the progress made in the group’s COVID-19 response, including the plan to use the US$10.5 million budget in the ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund to buy vaccines for member states, with the view of obtaining the first vaccine batch within the final quarter of 2021 or the first quarter of 2022.
ASEAN leaders agreed to adopt the ASEAN Travel Corridor Agreement Framework (ATCAF) to facilitate essential travel in the region, while actively considering the possibility of mutual recognition and adoption of electronic vaccination records.
Member countries suggested that the ASEAN Medical Supplies Reserve and ASEAN Centre for Response to Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases (ACPHEED) should soon be operational and effective in dealing with public health emergencies in the future.
ASEAN leaders also said that the bloc should actively implement efforts to restore interrupted supply chains and services, remove trade barriers, and pay attention to industries that have been heavily affected by COVID-19, like tourism.
The early approval of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) would make a positive contribution to the step-by-step efforts for the comprehensive, sustainable recovery in the region, heard the meeting.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính welcomed the positive results achieved by ASEAN through a difficult and challenging year, and proposed two priorities that ASEAN should focus on.
Firstly, ASEAN needs to have a comprehensive, synchronous and flexible approach to COVID-19 pandemic control with the participation of the "Whole Community", placing people and enterprises at the centre, and striving to overcome the pandemic impacts in the spirit of "harmonised benefits, shared risks".
ASEAN needs to shift to a new strategy to manage change with a whole-of-society approach to safely adapt, flexibly respond, and effectively control the pandemic, while promoting recovery and socio-economic development.
For effective implementation, it is necessary to improve the effectiveness of coordination mechanisms, boost the capacity of the health system, attempt to achieve self-reliance in terms of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, and raise people's awareness.
On this occasion, PM Chính announced a list of medical supplies worth millions of dollars that Việt Nam would contribute to the ASEAN Medical Supplies Reserve.
Second, PM Chính requests ASEAN to redefine its position in the evolving economic-political relations in the world, consolidate its role at the centre of the regional dialogues processes and multilateral economic cooperation and linkages.
He also pointed to new factors — digital economy, circular economy, green technology, renewable energy and high-quality human resources — as the basis for ASEAN’s more profound participation in the global supply chains and better changes at post-pandemic recovery.
The Vietnamese leader also announced the plan to hold an ASEAN forum on sub-regional cooperation for sustainable and inclusive development in Hà Nội on November 30, 2021.
At the end of the Summit, ASEAN leaders approved, took note of and issued 100 documents, with some notable mentions including the Bandar Seri Begawan Declaration on the Strategic and Holistic Initiative to Link ASEAN Responses to Emergencies and Disasters (ASEAN SHIELD), ASEAN Leaders' Statement on Promoting Multilateralism, ASEAN Leaders' Statement on Blue Economy, ASEAN Joint Statement on Climate Change to the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP-26), working regulations of the High-level Task Force on the Post-2025 Vision of the ASEAN Community, and a consolidated fourth industrial revolution strategy for ASEAN. — VNS