Vietnam reaffirms leadership role as ASEAN Chair amid pandemic

06:00 | 31/12/2020 Vietnam - Asean

(VEN) - What the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has done in 2020 with Vietnam playing the role of its Chair has dispelled all doubts (if any) about the bloc’s internal strength and cooperation possibilities in the context of complicated global changes, especially in terms of economic development, trade and investment. 

vietnam reaffirms leadership role as asean chair amid pandemic
Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh presided over the 52nd ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting that took place online

Intraregional cooperation initiatives

With total value of trade in goods amounting to US$2.8 trillion and total gross domestic product (GDP) exceeding US$3 trillion, ASEAN is the world’s fifth largest economic region. In 2019, ASEAN member states achieved significant economic growth, joining world-leading economies in terms of GDP growth.

This year, the Covid-19 pandemic has put the entire world in an unprecedented crisis threatening global development efforts, including ASEAN’s.

These difficulties have challenged Vietnam’s ASEAN Chairmanship. Covid-19 has not only caused a health crisis but also had adverse impacts on a wide range of economic and financial fields, as well as social security. ASEAN member states have mobilized all possible resources to combat the pandemic, leading to delay or even cancellation of their cooperation programs. Moreover, some non-ASEAN countries have exploited this situation to advance their own interests from a geographically strategic perch, creating additional difficulties for ASEAN’s development.

Along with efforts to overcome these non-traditional challenges, ASEAN has had to prevent cooperation disruptions and strive to achieve short-term goals to overcome problems undermining the regional economy.

As 2020 chair, Vietnam organized ministerial and lower level meetings in order to maintain ASEAN economic cooperation and promote regional trade and investment. The 52nd ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting (AEM-52) took place online successfully.

At their meetings, ASEAN leaders displayed determination to wrap up negotiations and sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement by the end of 2020; develop the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint 2025 and make mid-term assessments for necessary adjustments to help ASEAN overcome global challenges.

Two among 13 Priority Economic Deliverables (PEDs) under Vietnam’s 2020 ASEAN Chairmanship, namely the ASEAN Digital Integration Index and terms of reference (TOR) for linkages of innovation hubs in ASEAN, have been completed. The remaining 11 are in the final stage towards completion.

Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh affirmed the PEDs will contribute significantly to consolidating ASEAN’s internal strength, enhance the AEC’s role and help the bloc cope with non-traditional challenges.

vietnam reaffirms leadership role as asean chair amid pandemic

External cooperation

Unprecedended challenges faced by ASEAN since the beginning of 2020 have also presented opportunities to strengthen its position, promote cooperation with external partners, such as the Republic of Korea, China and Japan, and attract investment.

As ASEAN Chair, Vietnam has taken the initiative in coordinating with other member states and the ASEAN Secretariat to propose new cooperation mechanisms for ASEAN+3 (Japan, China, the Republic of Korea) and ASEAN’s cooperation with other partners in coping with the Covid-19 pandemic as well as in facilitating ASEAN’s economic development. Joint statements by economic ministers of ASEAN member states and partners in the context of the numerous difficulties induced by the Covid-19 pandemic were a success with significant contribution by Vietnam as ASEAN Chair. Joint statements and cooperation initiatives adopted at ASEAN meetings in 2020 once again affirmed the bloc’s central role in dealing with global issues as well as its capability to adapt to new situation in the region and the world.

“Statements, initiatives and action plans will help ASEAN and partner countries take necessary action and support each other’s efforts to overcome the pandemic in the short term and promote sustainable growth in the long term,” Minister Tran Tuan Anh said.

Quynh Anh