Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and National Assembly Chairwoman and Chair of the 41st General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA 41) Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan were also present at the opening ceremony.
In his welcome remarks, Party General Secretary and State President Trong said in 2020, ASEAN member countries have shown their will, resolve and efforts to overcome a range of difficulties and challenges.
He commended the grouping’s cohesive and responsive spirit of ASEAN in COVID-19 prevention and control, and the settlement of its consequences, saying public confidence in governments’ capacity to handle diseases has improved.
ASEAN has gained successes in maintaining activities as well as its role and position over the past years, the top leader said, noting that partners have continued to attach importance to and support the grouping’s centrality.
Given huge human and property losses caused by natural disasters and diseases, he called on ASEAN leaders to put forth more drastic and effective measures to well control new COVID-19 infections, revive the economy, stabilise lives and ensure social welfare for all regions and people of countries.
“Establishing a suitable foothold for ASEAN in the post-pandemic world is a major matter,” he said. “The strong wish and will to maintain a peaceful, stable and united region in line with international law should continue to be a core value of Southeast Asia and the ASEAN Community.”
In the new context, the ASEAN countries need to display their mettle and actively coordinate to materialise recovery initiatives and plans, with new, result-oriented operation and cooperation methods.
The values of regional dialogue and cooperation frameworks with ASEAN holding the central role should be brought into full play, the Party and State leader said, stressing that ASEAN would contribute more actively and effectively to efforts to promote multilateral cooperation and international law, and consolidate the international multilateral system with the United Nations as the core.
On this occasion, he laid emphasis on Vietnam’s policy of maintaining independence, self-reliance, multilateralism and diversification of external relations, being a trustworthy friend and partner and an active and responsible member of the international community, striving for peace, cooperation and development.
As ASEAN 2020 Chair, Vietnam treasures the solidarity and valuable support of other member countries, ASEAN’s partners and friends to help the grouping firmly overcome challenges, maintain connectivity, build the ASEAN community and consolidate the bloc’s centrality, thus building a Southeast Asian region of peace, friendship, cooperation, neutrality and stability.
Delivering the opening speech, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc pointed out challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters that would “sweep away” social progress and economic achievements built up for tens of decades, and it will take countries many years to overcome these losses.
The Governments of ASEAN member countries have united and acted together since very first days, he said, adding that ASEAN leaders and partners made strong commitments during the Special ASEAN Summit and ASEAN 3 Special Summit on COVID-19 that were held in mid-April when the pandemic began to break out, in the spirit of cohesiveness and responsiveness.
During the 36th ASEAN Summit in June 2020, the ASEAN member countries took stronger actions at both national and regional levels. The ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund announced at this summit received up to US$10 million in aid.
At the 37th ASEAN Summit, the ASEAN member countries are expected to establish a regional reserve of medical supplies that enables rapid response to emergency needs and standard procedures in response to pandemics.
With the support of Japan, the grouping agreed to form the ASEAN centre for public health emergencies and emerging diseases, PM Phuc said, noting that these cooperation outcomes are significant to improving capacity for responding to medical emergencies and disease risks in the future.
The leader stressed that the pandemic has failed to hinder the process of the ASEAN Community as cooperation in the three pillars has completed the progress set in the master plans for the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.
He stressed the need to raise institutional capacity as well as the capacity to effectively operate the ASEAN apparatus in order to adapt to the requirements of the new situation.
Reviewing the implementation of the ASEAN Charter is a need, and the leaders will look at this important task during the 37th Summit, he said.
In realising the dual tasks of containing the pandemic and promoting recovery, the leaders will officially approve the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and a detailed implementation plan for all of the three pillars.
Efforts have been made to promptly step up plans maintaining production and supply chains, enhance connectivity and restore trade in the region. Meanwhile, a safe travel framework for businesses and investors have been formed amidst COVID-19.
“Firstly, we would consider resuming a common route for ASEAN citizens at border gates,” he suggested.
Emphasising the risks to global peace and security, PM Phuc said ASEAN has consistently maintained its balanced and harmonious approach, as well as its centrality.
He lauded the statement issued by ASEAN Foreign Ministers on the occasion of the 53rd anniversary of the association that has affirmed the resolve to maintain a Southeast Asian region of peace, security, stability and neutrality.
At the same time, the bloc has demonstrated its consistent stance and principles, and strong commitments to building the East Sea – a major maritime route of the region and the globe – into an area of peace, stability, security and safety for the free circulation of goods.
The East Sea is the area where differences and disputes should be addressed by peaceful measures, law is respected and observed, and common values are confirmed, the PM stressed.
“We are looking forward to soon completing an effective and efficient Code of Conduct in the East Sea, in line with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”
The leader also talked about the first-ever ASEAN Women Leaders’ Summit where representatives of female leaders will raise their voice on women’s role in promoting sustainable development in the post-pandemic world.
He suggested ASEAN focus resources and efforts at the highest level to drive back the pandemic, soon produce COVID-19 vaccines and have effective treatment methods, while improving medical preventive capacity in order to respond to public health emergencies and protect the public’s health and life at the best.
It is a must to intensify measures to help enterprises restore production and business, and create jobs and livelihoods for people, he noted.
ASEAN councils need to promptly implement the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and the implementation plan right after this summit, he requested.
ASEAN also needs to establish its position given the shift of economic and political strength between countries as well as the adjustment of the global production and supply chain, he proposed.
The leader said the equal and sustainable development is of special significance to the ASEAN Community building, especially at a time when diseases and natural disasters are threatening the regional growth.
Peace and stability are the prerequisite conditions for recovery and development. Meanwhile, ASEAN identities, solidarity and unity need to be carried forward in this tough time, he stressed.
Concluding his speech, PM Phuc believed with its solidarity and self-resilience, ASEAN will firmly overcome challenges, towards a wealthy and prosperous life for more than 600 million people, effectively contributing to peace, stability and development in the region and the world.
Founded in 1967, ASEAN groups 10 member countries, namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.