ASEAN step up cooperation with EU, India
The ASEAN-EU and ASEAN-India Ministerial Meetings were held virtually on September 12 within the framework of the 53rd ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM 53) and Related Meetings.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh led the Vietnamese delegation to the meetings.
At the ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting, both sides emphasised the importance of the relationship between the two regional organisations that are considered the most successful. The two sides acknowledged the positive progress in the bilateral cooperation in recent years, especially in the active implementation of the ASEAN-EU Action Plan for the 2018-2022 period.
For many years, the EU has been the most important partner of ASEAN, especially in economic and development cooperation. The EU is currently the third largest trading partner of ASEAN with a two-way trade reaching 280 billion USD in 2019 and the third largest source of foreign investment of ASEAN with a total volume of FDI hitting 16.2 billion USD last year.
The ministers affirmed their strong commitment to strengthen the ASEAN-EU comprehensive cooperation relationship in the coming time, and continue promoting their "Partners in Integration" relationship. The two sides welcomed the 22nd ASEAN-EU Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Belgium in January 2019. They shared the view in principle on upgrading ASEAN-EU relations to the level of strategic partnership and agreed to formalise the upgrade soon.
The two sides agreed to continue effectively cooperating in areas of mutual interest and strengths, including economy-trade, connectivity, transport, counter-terrorism, fighting transnational crime, cyber security, marine security and health care. Amid the complicated developments of the COVID-19 pandemic, the two sides agreed to work closely to support capacity building and response to the COVID-19 pandemic and promote recovery.
The EU is one of the first partners to coordinate with ASEAN to successfully organise the ASEAN-EU Ministerial Online Conference on COVID-19 Epidemic Response on March 20, 2020. ASEAN highly valued the EU's announcement to mobilise a 800 million EUR assistance package for the ASEAN region to prevent and mitigate impacts of COVID-19.
Addressing the event, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh affirmed that as ASEAN Chair 2020, Vietnam supported efforts to deepen ASEAN-EU relations, towards officially upgrading the bilateral relations to the level of strategic partnership.
Strengthening connectivity plays an important role in promoting economic recovery and maintaining growth, Minh said, and welcomed the EU's proposal on the ASEAN-EU Joint Ministerial Statement on Connectivity and supported promoting connectivity and complementary to the implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025 and the EU Connectivity Strategy.
At the ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting, the ministers noted that despite complicated and unpredictable developments, especially the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ASEAN-India relations continue to make significant progress across all fields, including the implementation of the ASEAN-India Action Plan 2016-2020.
India affirmed its relationship with ASEAN, emphasising that ASEAN plays a central role in India's Act East policy. ASEAN highly appreciated India's commitment and active participation in ASEAN-led mechanisms such as the East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM +) and the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF) as well as India's support for regional cooperation and ASEAN community building.
The two sides agreed to promote cooperation in the areas of economy, trade and investment; maritime cooperation; counter-terrorism and fighting transnational crime; connectivity; science-technology and innovation; natural disaster prevention, control and mitigation; climate change response, cultural and people-to-people exchange, and narrowing development gaps.
Regarding response to COVID-19, India affirmed to support ASEAN in overcoming the pandemic's consequences and promoting sustainable recovery and work closely with ASEAN in research and production of COVID-19 vaccines and treatment medicines.
ASEAN appreciated India's active support for regional cooperation, including capacity building, narrowing the development gaps, and earmarking one billion USD in credit to support projects connecting the two sides.
Addressing the event, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh emphasised the importance of the ASEAN-India strategic partnership and affirmed India as a reliable partner and friend of ASEAN.
ASEAN and India should make efforts to strengthen economic and trade connectivity, and maritime cooperation, while coordinating to fully exploit the 1.8 billion-people market, and strengthening cooperation to achieve two-way trade turnover of 200 billion USD by 2022, Minh said.
He also affirmed the importance of India's participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and emphasised that the RCEP Agreement is always open to India.
In both events, the ministers exchanged views on world and regional issues of common interest. Regarding the East Sea, the ministers continue emphasising the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security, safety, freedom of navigation and aviation; not militarising; avoiding acts that further complicate the situation, and settling disputes in line with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.
The meetings supported the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), and early finalisation of an effective and efficient Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.
The EU emphasised the need to respect international law, refrain from tense actions and militarisation, and support efforts to build laws governing behavior in the region.
India informed the ASEAN countries of the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative. The EU welcomed ASEAN to play its role in promoting cooperation, dialogue, building trust in the region, supporting efforts to seriously and fully implement the DOC and develop an effective COC in accordance with international law and the 1982 UNCLOS.
At the meetings, Minh highly appreciated the support of the partners for ASEAN's efforts to participate in ensuring peace, security, stability and navigation and aviation in the East Sea.
He reaffirmed ASEAN's principled position and emphasised the need to strengthen trust building, avoid militarisation and acts that erode trust and complicate the situation, and settle disputes in line with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, continue the full and effective implementation of DOC, and early finalisation of an effective and efficient Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) in accordance with international law, especially the 1982 UNCLOS, contributing to peace, security, stability in the East Sea and the region.
Following the two meetings, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh chaired an international press conference, announcing the outcomes of AMM 53 and Related Meetings. ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi attended the online press conference./.