Cohesion for joint actions of the ASEAN Community

(QLNN) – The Special ASEAN  Summit and ASEAN + 3Summit (APT) in response to the Covid-19 epidemic have just been successfully organized. On this occasion, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has granted an interview on the outcomes of these two important events. The State Management Review, NAPA presents this interview with the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the Special ASEAN Summit on Covid-19 (Photo: Trần Hải)

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the Special ASEAN Summit on Covid-19 (Photo: Trần Hải)

Reporter: Could you please identifythechallenges the COVID-19 pandemic has posed to ASEAN in general and the Vietnam ASEAN Chairmanship Year 2020 in particular?

P.M. Nguyen Xuan Phuc: The Covid-19 pandemic is the greatest challenge to humankind, the unprecedentedglobal crisis since the World War II, and also the biggest challenge to ASEAN during more than half a century of establishment and development. After just over three months, the pandemic has caused severe damages to human health and life, as well as to the socio-economic aspects, which are predicted to far surpass the impacts of the Asian financial crisis in 1997 or the global crisis in 2008-2009.

“The pandemic not only causes great human loss but also seriously affects all aspects of socio-economic life in ASEAN countries and cooperation and exchange activities among ASEAN members as well as between ASEAN and its partners. It is forecasted that there will be a sharp decline in growthin allASEAN states and even negative growth in some countries. Regarding ASEAN cooperation, according to statistics of the ASEAN Secretariat there have been so far over 200 ASEAN meetings had to be postponed or cancelled,” PM Phuc said.

Vietnam as the Chair of ASEAN 2020, together withother member countries has been ready to organize activities during the ASEAN Chairmanship 2020. However, in response to the sudden outbreak and unexpected consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic Vietnam has to makenecessary adjustments to the plans for those activities.

With the motto “People’s life and health first” and efforts to maintain close connectivity and coordination in the prevention and control of the epidemic, ASEAN member states have organized many important ministerial meetings in the form of video conference on health, economics affairs, national defense as well as other video-conferencing meetings with partners such as China, the European Union (EU), the United States and important international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) to share experience for the effective response to the pandemic. At the same time, Vietnam considers holding important ASEAN conferences when the epidemic is under control.

Reporter: So what should ASEAN do in response to this common threat?

P.M. Nguyen Xuan Phuc: ASEAN members have shown quickand promptresponse to the pandemic since its outbreak, enhancedcohesion and coordination in policy and actions among its member states. Vietnam early issued an ASEAN Chair’s Statementon ASEAN Collective Response to the Covid-19 on 14 February 2020 and held many important meetings among ASEAN state membersand between the group with its partners to ensure synchronous coordination in prevention and combat of Covid-19, shareexperience and support to effectively cope with the pandemic.

More than ever before, this is the time for ASEAN member countries to “think Community, act Community”. If we stay separately, we can’t repel the pandemic by our own. But if we stand together, no dangers can do harms to us. Besides, ASEAN is the common home for us to overcome this pandemic together. I think individual efforts need to be reunited, becoming a joint action of the ASEAN Community. Timely response and close coordination in policy and action among the 10 state members will be the decisive factor in containing the pandemic.

Along with the prevention and combat of the Covid-19, ASEAN also needs to pay attention to overcoming the consequences and mitigating adverse impacts caused by the epidemic. It is necessary to put people at the center andensure social security in the region, leaving no one behind; to strengthen public awareness, solidarity, compassion and international unity. In the immediate time, what needs to be done is to provide timelysupport for vulnerable groups in society as well as economic and financial support packages for enterprises to help them stabilize their production and business, and maintain their trade activities. In the long term, ASEAN countries needs to promote their resilience and preparedness for future shocks. Strengthening cooperation and mutual benefits, reducing development gaps among ASEAN member states will be the long-term solution to challenges like Covid-19.

PM Phuc expressed his belief that ASEAN will soon get over the pandemic. This challenge will motivate member nations to grow together stronger.

Reporter: How has Vietnam promoted its role as the ASEAN 2020 Chair in this context?

P.M. Nguyen Xuan Phuc: The Covid-19 pandemic has proved that the theme “Cohesive and Responsive” that Vietnam has chosen for its ASEAN Chairmanship Year2020 is timely and fully relevant. The efforts that Vietnam has been carrying out as the Chair of ASEAN 2020 have clearly shown the spirit of this themeand that Vietnam has really turned words into specific actions. Joining hands n combating the Covid-19 epidemic is now ASEAN’s top priority. The way we are working together to tackle the pandemic will further affirm ASEAN’s will and strength.

As the Chair of ASEAN 2020 in this particularly difficult time, Vietnam is fully aware of its responsibilities and is determined to stand shoulder to shoulder with ASEAN state members to steer the ASEAN boat through stormy waves. Right after the epidemic outbreak, Vietnam has proactively taken swift actionsby leading and coordinating ASEAN’s joint efforts as well as cooperating with partners to control and prevent the spread of the epidemic while mitigatingits adverse socio – economic impacts, which can be seen as follows:

Firstly, the early issue of the Chairman’s Statement on ASEAN’s collective response to Covid-19 in a timely mannerto warn the pandemic threat, call for regional and international cooperation, emphasizingthe spirit of ASEAN’s unity and committing to joining hands to control and prevent the spread of the epidemic, thus ensuring a safe life for people.

Secondly, Vietnam flexibly held ASEAN’s meetings via video conferences. This is an appropriate solution, enabling the group maintain connectivity, close and comprehensive coordination, quick and timely response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The meetings focused on three important directions of action: information and experience sharing; policy coordination and cooperation in action.

Thirdly, as Chair of ASEAN 2020, Vietnam has promoted cooperation with other countries and international organizations in order to improve the effectiveness of the prevention and control of the epidemic; coordinatedand attended many important meetings with different partners such as China, the EU, the United States, WHO and the OnlineG20 Summit to discuss cooperation in controlling and repelling the pandemic.

These tireless efforts of Vietnam as ASEAN Chair have brought about initial results in control and prevention of the epidemic. PM Phuc expressed his belief that, together with other countries and partners inside and outside ASEAN, Vietnam‘s efforts will contribute to the replication of good experience and good lessons so that the region and the world soon stamp out the pandemic.

Reporter: Thank you very much!

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