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ASEAN 2020: online meetings save travel, organisations costs

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and General Secretary of the National ASEAN 2020 Committee Nguyen Quoc Dung spoke of the organisation of the upcoming 36th ASEAN Summit as well as topics to be tabled for discussion at the meeting, during a press conference in Hanoi on June 23.

Noting that ASEAN has wanted to increase online meetings for years to cut travel and organisation costs but yet to realize it, Dung said the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the bloc’s member countries to do it this year, which took place effectively.

According to him, the difference in time zone is the biggest challenge in holding video conferences with ASEAN partners, such as the upcoming meetings within the East-Asia Summit (EAS) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) with the participation of 27 countries, including those from North America and Australia.

As for issues to be discussed at the summit, Deputy FM Dung said ASEAN leaders will seek ways to increase intra-bloc trade, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded the member countries to optimise their domestic markets and the ASEAN market.

Regarding labour movement, the Deputy Minister said ASEAN is optimistic that legal frameworks and agreements within the bloc will ensure adequate conditions for labour movement inside the bloc.

Mentioning the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Dung stressed that the deal is a priority of ASEAN and its negotiation partners. He said except for India that has temporarily withdrawn from the negotiations, the remaining participants are resolved to sign the deal this year.

The Deputy FM also said intensified strategic competition between the US and China, and among powers is posing many challenges to not only the ASEAN but also the world as a whole. Dung affirmed that ASEAN will not take sides and has its own stance on regional and international issues.

Citing the issuance of the “ASEAN outlook on the Indo-Pacific” under which the bloc has expressed its viewpoints on the region as well as its principles, he said that is the way for ASEAN to maintain its central role in the region. 

“I believe that this spirit will be upheld at the 36th ASEAN Summit, slated for June 26, as well as at the 37th summit in November,” he said./.