Experts and international media highly appreciate Vietnam's initiative and responsibility in coordinating and guiding ASEAN to overcome common challenges, especially the COVID-19 pandemic.

With statements adopted, including the “ASEAN Leaders’ Vision Statement on A Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN: Rising Above Challenges and Sustaining Growth” and the “ASEAN Declaration on Human Resources Development for the Changing World of Work”, the 36th ASEAN Summit and related meetings wrapped up successfully on June 26th as the 10 member countries showed the unanimity to coordinate with one another to effectively cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and promote socio-economic recovery in the region.

Assessing the role of Vietnam, leaders of many countries, as well as international public opinion, shared that Vietnam has successfully fulfilled its duties as ASEAN Chairman in the past 6 months.

Strong leadership

According to Vietnam News Agency, ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi confirmed that as ASEAN Chair, the country has done much and shown strong leadership in guiding the region’s collective response to the pandemic. He also highly valued Vietnam’s contributions, especially its assistance for some ASEAN members and dialogue partners in dealing with COVID-19.

Under Vietnam’s guidance, activities have been carried out to set up the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund, warehouses of medical supplies and standard operating procedures in public health emergencies. The country has also launched discussions on the post-2025 ASEAN Vision. “These will help ASEAN be more cohesive and responsive during the regional integration process while adapting to the current 'new normal' status and learning important lessons,” said the ASEAN Secretary-General.

Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith also spoke highly of ASEAN’s recent successes, while Deputy Foreign Minister of Laos Thongphane Savanphet said Vietnam has fulfilled its role as ASEAN Chair over the past six months, and that despite numerous difficulties, Vietnam has led ASEAN countries in boosting cooperation against COVID-19 and in other activities. He expressed his belief that under Vietnam’s chairmanship, the bloc will continue to successfully carry out the initiatives and agreements its members have put forth this year.

Sharing the same assessment, Cambodian Prime Minister Samdec Hun Sen affirmed that this ASEAN summit reflects Vietnam's capacity to lead ASEAN, despite the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Activeness and responsibility

Experts and international media are particularly impressed with Vietnam's initiative and responsibility in coordinating and leading ASEAN to overcome common challenges, especially the COVID-19 pandemic, the current global crisis.

Malaysia’s news agency Bernama has run an article titled “36th ASEAN Summit made history amid COVID-19”.

“Although restricted by movement and space, where leaders of the grouping had not been able to meet physically in Vietnam this time - including to perform the ASEAN tradition of crossover handshake - the meetings and interactions had proceeded virtually and in high spirit,” it wrote.

Under the chair of Vietnam, the one-day summit, which carried the theme “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN”, saw leaders discussing a wide range of issues and cooperation concerning the region, with focus on the need for a comprehensive post-pandemic recovery plan for ASEAN.

It spoke highly of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s opening remarks at the 36th ASEAN Summit, saying that ASEAN must also be prepared to deal with the challenges ahead. He said for the latter half of 2020, the challenge would be for governments of the ASEAN member states to lead ASEAN out of this period of adversity, adding that if successful, it will stand as a testament to the lasting values and vitality of ASEAN Resilience and Dynamic Community.

The article said the Summit this time also saw the  ASEAN Leaders' Special Session on Women’s Empowerment in the Digital Age - which was to affirm the leaders commitment to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment and to enhance the role of women in building the ASEAN Community - being held for the first time.

Ahead the ASEAN Summit, Singapore's page had an article commenting on Vietnam's role in promoting ASEAN cohesion and proactive response. According to the article, with this year's ASEAN theme, “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN”, Vietnam is effectively addressing the challenges of assuming the role of ASEAN Chair 2020, with the top priority task being encouraging ASEAN to look towards to a common strategy to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leading ASEAN forward

“Being ahead of the curve, the ASEAN Chair is in good stead to lead and shape regional responses to the pandemic,” Dr Huong Le Thu, Senior Analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute,

Meanwhile, Director of the ASEAN Studies Programme at Indonesia’s Habibie Centre Ahmad Ibrahim Almutaqqi, the summit discussed not only measures to deal with COVID-19 but also those for post-pandemic economic recovery.

He appreciates the role Vietnam plays as Chair of ASEAN in 2020, as despite the impact of the pandemic it has carried out its tasks in an effort to ensure the proper functioning of ASEAN in this difficult year and in organising high-level meetings.

Another Indonesian scholar, Professor Aleksius Jemadu, said Vietnam has played its role well in guiding ASEAN member states to maintain the grouping’s central role and solidarity to sustain regional stability.

He believed Vietnam is in the best position to uphold the role of ASEAN leadership in this decisive time, adding that all ASEAN countries expect Vietnam to effectively play its role in uniting ASEAN and prioritising the promotion of ASEAN’s centrality during its chairmanship of the bloc.

Talking about the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Chheang Vannarith, President of the Phnom Penh-based Asian Vision Institute, said during its ASEAN Chairmanship this year, Vietnam has been effectively coordinating and promoting negotiations on the RCEP so as to reach consensus and finalise the talks, although India opted out of the deal at the last minute./.

Compiled by BTA