Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (centre) chairs the online 37th ASEAN Summit on November 12
She told the Vietnam News Agency that the successful containment of COVID-19 is Vietnam’s most outstanding achievement, helping it acquire unprecedented stature and prestige in the world and also creating a prerequisite for the country to fulfil its tasks as ASEAN Chair.
Talking about Vietnam’s important contributions, she said the country made proactive and timely moves to switch from face-to-face meetings to teleconferences in April, and the staff in charge of ASEAN cooperation at ministries and sectors quickly adapted to chairing events and activities online.
This was not easy since the bloc’s traditional way of working is meeting frequently in person, based on which friendly relations are built to promote consensus, according to Ha.
A remarkable attainment from these efforts was the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) after eight years of tough negotiations, she said, describing this as demonstration of political resolve, coordination efforts, cooperative spirit, and mutual compromise to maintain multilateral free trade, which has been under pressure from growing protectionism around the world.
Besides, the expert added Vietnam has also helped promote an array of regional cooperation agreements and initiatives on urgent issues, including the ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund, the Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies, the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and implementation plan, and the ASEAN Centre for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases.
If carried out effectively, these initiatives will make practical contributions to anti-pandemic efforts of member states and hold great political significance, highlighting the bloc’s solidarity and cooperation amid the crisis - in line with the theme of “Cohesive & Responsive” Vietnam chose for its ASEAN Chairmanship Year 2020.
During the interview, Ha said that in a very complex regional geostrategic context, Vietnam has played an important role in maintaining ASEAN’s stance of being independent and “not choosing sides”, which doesn’t mean keeping rigid neutrality or passive diplomacy.
As shown in the ASEAN statement on the importance of maintaining peace and stability in Southeast Asia, adopted in August, the bloc’s neutrality is based on adherence to international law and the maintenance of an open and inclusive regional order, in which the presence and cooperation of major countries are welcomed so that the region will not be a backyard of or specially influenced by any nation.
Vietnam has also taken the lead in promoting a principled stance on the East Sea issue in ASEAN, which is anchored in international law, particularly the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Ha noted./.VNA