Foreign ministers from the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have reaffirmed their commitments to promote cooperation both within the bloc and with its partners in response to COVID-19, according to a joint communique released Thursday.
The document was published after the 53rd ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting, which was held on Wednesday via video link.
"We highlighted the importance of a whole-of-ASEAN approach in responding to COVID-19 including through a holistic, comprehensive, inclusive and practical ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework," said the communique.
Noting the continued human cost and profound socio-economic impact of COVID-19, the ministers expressed commitments to effectively prevent, detect, control and respond to the spread of the epidemic and address its severe and multi-faceted challenges.
The ministers called for the effective operationalization of the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund, and looked forward to further progress on the various initiatives to respond to COVID-19. They also looked forward to the submission of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and its Implementation Plan to the ASEAN summit later this year.
Moreover, the foreign ministers stressed enhanced collaboration and sharing of experience with ASEAN's partners in research, development, the production and distribution of vaccines, providing access to medicines for COVID-19 and other diseases in future public health emergencies, and making them available and affordable to all as global public goods.
Recognizing the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19 on the economic front, the ministers reiterated their commitment to keep the markets open for trade and investment, and refrain from imposing unnecessary non-tariff measures to ensure supply chain connectivity, particularly for food, medicines, medical supplies, and other essential products.
Regarding external relations, the ASEAN ministers reaffirmed their belief that regionalism and multilateralism are important principles and frameworks of cooperation, and underscored the importance of ASEAN's partnerships with other external partners to address global concerns and pursue shared goals.
"We agreed to further strengthen partnership and cooperation with our external partners, thus contributing to the continued efforts towards the realization of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and our proactive response to emerging challenges," said the communique.
Also, the ministers agreed to continue efforts on the initiatives and priorities for this year, including the effective implementation of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, discussions on an ASEAN Community Post-2025 Vision, and the ASEAN Smart Cities Network.
They agreed that ASEAN needs to continue its efforts to jointly deal with non-traditional security challenges such as terrorism, transnational crime, climate change, and epidemics.
The 53rd ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting and related meetings are being held from Wednesday to Saturday, with some 40 documents expected to be issued and adopted, according to the organizers.
Founded in 1967, the ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Vietnam is the ASEAN chair for 2020.