Prime Minister talks on outcomes of Special ASEAN, ASEAN+3 Summits on COVID-19
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, as the Chairman of ASEAN in 2020, chaired the Special ASEAN and ASEAN+3 Summits on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the form of video conference on April 14. On this occasion, the PM has granted an interview on the outcomes of these two important events.
Reporter: Can you elaborate on the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic poses to ASEAN and Viet Nam’s ASEAN Chairmanship for 2020?
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc: COVID-19, the worst global crisis since the Second World War, is taking its tolls on humankind. The pandemic is also ASEAN’s most formidable obstacle throughout its history spanning more than half a century. After three months, COVID-19 has incurred severe human and socio-economic losses, and its repercussions are projected to be much more far-reaching than the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2008 – 2009 global crisis.
To date, the virus has spread across all ASEAN member states, with over 18,000 confirmed cases and more than 740 fatalities. Apart from the harms inflicted upon our people, the pandemic has also adversely affected ASEAN members’ socio-economic activities, and cooperation and exchanges among ASEAN member states and between ASEAN and its external partners. The growth rate of all ASEAN members is predicted to sharply decline, and certain countries may even suffer negative growth. Regarding ASEAN’s cooperation, according to the ASEAN Secretariat’s statistics, to date, over 200 ASEAN meetings have been postponed or cancelled.
Viet Nam, as the ASEAN Chair, has worked closely with fellow member states in preparation for activities throughout the year. However, given the COVID-19 outbreak and unprecedented turbulences that followed, we had to make certain necessary adjustments to the delivery of those activities.
In the spirit of ‘the people’s life and well-being first’ and to stay connected while maintaining close collaboration in combating COVID-19, ASEAN members have flexibly opted to convene multiple Ministerial video conferences on healthcare, economy and defence. ASEAN also organized virtual meetings with its partners, including China, the EU and the U.S., and key international organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), to exchange experience, provide mutual support and seek effective responses. We will continue looking into hosting ASEAN’s important meetings once the disease is put under control.
Question 2: Your Excellency, from your perspective, what does ASEAN need to do to collectively respond to this common threat?
Prime Minister: Since the early days of the outbreak, ASEAN has demonstrated quick and timely responsiveness by seamlessly coordinating policies and actions among member states. We issued the ASEAN Chair’s Statement on ASEAN’s joint response to the outbreak of COVID-19 on 14 February 2020, and convened several important meetings among member states and with external partners to ensure seamless coordination in disease prevention and combat, exchange of experiences, and mutual support in effectively dealing with the pandemic.
Now more than ever is the time for ASEAN member states to truly “think Community, act Community”. No country can repel the pandemic on its own, but united, no danger can defeat us. ASEAN provides the common shelter for its members to weather this storm. I believe that national efforts must be converged to become a joint response of the whole ASEAN Community. Timely response and close coordination of policies and actions among the 10 member states will have a decisive impact on the fight against the pandemic.
Along with combating the pandemic, ASEAN should pay particular attention to mitigating the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, and to the post-pandemic recovery. The people must be placed at the center of the ongoing efforts, social security must be ensured so that no one is left behind; and we must promote the sense of community, compassion and mutual support, and foster international solidarity. In the immediate, we need to promptly provide assistance to the vulnerable groups in society and introduce economic and financial assistance packages to businesses in order to sustain production, trade and business activities. In the long-term, ASEAN needs to enhance the resilience and responsiveness of each member state and of the Community as a whole in dealing with any future shocks. Promoting connectivity, expanding shared interests and narrowing the development gaps between member states will be the long-term answer to challenges akin to Covid-19.
I am confident that ASEAN will soon overcome this pandemic. This challenge will not defeat us, on the contrary, we will emerge stronger as a truly cohesive and responsive Community in tackling any future adversity.
Reporter: Prime Minister, amidst this context, how has Viet Nam performed its role as ASEAN Chair?
Prime Minister: The Covid-19 pandemic has testified to the relevance of this year’s theme of ‘Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN’ identified by Viet Nam. Our ongoing efforts as the ASEAN Chair to date have showcased the spirit of this theme, transforming words into concrete actions. Joining hands to repel Covid-19 is ASEAN’s top priority at this juncture. As such, our joint efforts to put this pandemic under control will further demonstrate ASEAN’s strength and resilience.
We are fully aware of our responsibilities as the ASEAN Chair in this challenging time, and determined to stand united with other ASEAN member states to steer the ASEAN vessel through stormy waters. Since the early days of the outbreak, Viet Nam has been proactive and swift in coordinating joint responses of ASEAN member states. We have also engaged the Partners of ASEAN in curbing the spread of the pandemic, and mitigating its socio-economic impacts. A number of deliverables are as follows:
First, we issued the ASEAN Chair’s Statement on ASEAN’s joint response to the outbreak of Covid-19 from the very early days. Through this statement, we aimed to draw attention to the risks of this virus, call for regional and international cooperation, underline ASEAN solidarity and unity, and reiterate commitment to joining hands in preventing the spread of the contagion and restoring peace and safety to our people’s lives.
Second, Viet Nam has displayed flexibility in convening virtual ASEAN Summits and meetings. This solution has helped us stay connected, sustain seamless coordination, and make quick and timely responses amidst the Covid-19. The meetings have focused on three key directions of actions: information and experience sharing, policy coordination and action coordination.
Third, as the ASEAN Chair, Viet Nam has sought to bolster international cooperation with countries and international organizations to raise the effectiveness of the disease response. We have also hosted or participated in various meetings with important partners such as China, the EU, the US, WHO, and taken part in the virtual G20 Summit, to discuss cooperation on how to soon end the pandemic.
Viet Nam’s tireless efforts as the ASEAN Chair have produced encouraging initial outcomes in disease prevention and control. I am strongly convinced that together with our friends and partners from within and outside ASEAN, Viet Nam’s efforts will contribute to promoting the best practices and valuable experience for the region and the international community towards an early defeat of the pandemic./.