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Vietnam attends ASEAN-EU Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son on August 6 took part in the virtual ASEAN-EU Foreign Ministers' Meeting as part of the 54th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting and related meetings.

Foreign Ministers of ASEAN countries, Vice President of the European Commission and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell Fontelles and ASEAN Secretary-General Dato Lim Jock Hoi attended the meeting.

Participating countries welcomed ASEAN and the EU officially upgrading their relations to a strategic partnership, affirming their strong commitment to promoting cooperation on the basis of sharing common values, principles and interests, upholding multilateral cooperation and promoting a rules-based international order, thus making positive contributions to peace, stability and prosperity. ASEAN agreed with the EU's proposal to hold the 45th ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit in Brussels, Belgium in 2022.

On behalf of ASEAN, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan of Singapore, as coordinator of ASEAN-EU relations, affirmed that the EU has always been an important partner of ASEAN and welcomed the positive progress in cooperation between the two sides over the past time. The EU is the second largest investor in ASEAN with a total capital of 7.6 billion USD and a major trade partner with a total turnover of 258 billion USD in 2020.

ASEAN countries appreciated the EU’s implementation of the 800 million EUR Team Europe programme to support ASEAN in disease prevention and the 20 million EUR "Pandemic Preparedness in Southeast Asia" programme. They also asked the EU to continue to support ASEAN's COVID-19 prevention and control initiatives as well as coordinate to ensure access, supply, research and development of vaccines in a safe, equitable and effective manner in the region.

Regarding regional and international issues, ASEAN and EU countries shared the view on the significance of peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation and aviation in the East Sea.

They showed their support for dialogue, building trust, exercising restraint, and taking no actions that would complicate the situation or escalate disputes and no militarisation, as well as settling disputes through peaceful measures, in line with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982 UNCLOS).

The countries also backed efforts to resume negotiations towards an effective and efficient Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) in accordance with international law and the 1982 UNCLOS.

In his remarks, Son emphasised the importance of the ASEAN-EU strategic partnership, which, he said, has significantly contributed to efforts to promote multilateral cooperation and regional connectivity.

He also lauded the EU’s important role in global efforts in disease combat, technological application, innovation, and promotion of multilateral trade, economic recovery  and climate change response.

He suggested the EU help ASEAN access COVID-19 vaccines in a timely fashion, consider transferring vaccine production technology to the grouping, and assist ASEAN to improve its vaccine self-sufficiency.

As ASEAN’s leading economic partner, the EU should enhance its coordination with the bloc to ensure the stability of supply chain connectivity, and facilitate two-way trade and investment, the minister said.

He also proposed the EU take into account the building of a free trade agreement with ASEAN on the basis of FTAs between the EU and some ASEAN member countries, including Vietnam.

The 1982 UNCLOS serves as a legal foundation governing all activities at seas and oceans, he said, stressing that rights and legitimate interests of coastal countries defined in the document must be respected.

At the end of the meeting, the Philippines officially took over the role of coordinator of ASEAN-EU relations during the 2021-2024 period./.