Wrapping up the year 2020, these summits are of great significance in determining a suitable position for ASEAN in the post-COVID-19 world. Leaders of ASEAN member states agreed on many drastic and practical measures to accelerate cooperation in coping with and overcoming challenges, including the pandemic, while maintaining the momentum of cooperation and proposing major directions to help the ASEAN Community develop more and more strongly, truly becoming the nucleus of the region, with the people placed at the centre.
At the conferences, ASEAN leaders reviewed the situation of ASEAN cooperation, and particularly spoke highly of Vietnam’s 2020 ASEAN chairmanship in coordinating and leading the bloc to maintain its cooperation momentum across the three community pillars, in an effort to support people and businesses to soon address the consequences of the disease and stabilise the socio-economic life in member countries. ASEAN leaders unanimously released the Mid-term Review of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 Blueprints and issued the Hanoi Declaration on the post-2025 ASEAN Community Vision, while reviewing the realisation of the ASEAN Charter and reaching a consensus on associating sub-regional development with the common development of ASEAN and implementing initiatives to enhance ASEAN’s image and identity in the region.
To realise the dual task of combating the pandemic and promoting economic recovery, the leaders adopted the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and the Implementation Plan, the ASEAN Declaration on an ASEAN Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework, and the ASEAN Strategic Framework for Public Health Emergencies, while officially announcing the establishment of the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies, promoting the operation of the ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund to effectively support the region’s anti-pandemic needs, and agreeing on a plan to set up the ASEAN Regional Centre on Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases. Countries voiced their belief that these measures would help people regain confidence, enhance competitiveness, and restore the disrupted supply chains and services, towards gradual and sustainable recovery in the medium and long run. PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc announced that Vietnam would contribute US$100,000 to the ASEAN COVID-19 Response and pledged to contribute medical equipment and supplies worth US$5 million to the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies.
ASEAN leaders and partners affirmed the prerequisite for maintaining ASEAN’s solidarity, consistency and central role as well as enhancing the bloc’s resilience, promoting multilateralism and upholding the basic principles in the ASEAN Charter and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. In addition, ASEAN consistently demonstrated its principle stance and was strongly committed to building the East Sea (South China Sea), which accommodates the arterial maritime route of the region and the world, into a sea of peace, stability, security and safety, where differences and disputes are resolved by peaceful means and laws are respected and observed. Countries agreed that ASEAN should push forward the creation of a favourable environment for dialogue, cooperation and trust building efforts, including ensuring the negotiation of a binding and effective Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) in line with international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982).
Constantly expanding and deepening relations with its partners, ASEAN has agreed to expand the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) with the admission of Cuba, Colombia and South Africa, thus bringing the total number of participating countries to 43. Some highlights of the ASEAN Summits with partners are the elevation of the Mekong-Republic of Korea cooperation to a strategic partnership for the people, prosperity and peace, and the launch of the ASEAN Smart Logistics Network with the first project being the ICD Vinh Phuc Logistics Centre. On this occasion, the ASEAN Women Leaders’ Summit took place for the first time, offering a platform for representation of women leaders from countries to directly raise their voices on the role of women in promoting sustainable development in the post-COVID-19 world.
An outstanding success of the 37th ASEAN Summit and related summits is the successful signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) after eight years of negotiations. The new cooperation frameworks in the RCEP will contribute to accelerating the process of building the ASEAN Economic Community 2025. PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc expressed his hopes that the RCEP would soon be ratified and put into force by member countries in the near future, contributing to supporting the post-pandemic economic recovery process, bringing common prosperity to people and businesses in member countries. This is great and prideworthy achievement of ASEAN, with its central role, joining partner countries to lay the foundation for a new period of comprehensive, long-term and forward-looking cooperation, in line with the level of development and bringing benefits to all countries in the region. For Vietnam, the signing of the RCEP at the 37th ASEAN Summit and related summits has affirmed the country’s increasing role and position in the international arena.
As the Chair of ASEAN in 2020, in the spirit of “cohesion and proactive adaptation”, Vietnam respects the solidarity and valuable support from ASEAN member states, partners and friends that will help the ASEAN Community to steadily overcome challenges, maintain linkage momentum, consolidate ASEAN’s central role, and build a peaceful, friendly, cooperative and stable Southeast Asia region. With the successful conclusion of the 37th ASEAN Summit and related summits and the closure of the ASEAN Chairmanship Year 2020, Vietnam believes that, with the spirit of solidarity and self-reliance, ASEAN will steadily rise above challenges, moving towards a prosperous life for more than 600 million people and effectively contributing to peace, stability and development in the region and the world.