The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) opened its 37th summit under the chairmanship of Vietnam via video conference today. The focus was on the region’s recovery from coronavirus (COVID-19) and the role of the bloc in the post-pandemic world.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee and Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong on Thursday noted that in 2020 all ASEAN countries showed their courage and determination with efforts to overcome challenges and difficulties.

The cohesiveness and responsiveness of ASEAN have been shown strongly in Covid-19 prevention and control and the efforts to recover from the epidemic, he said.

Trong emphasized that in the new context, regional dialogue and cooperation frameworks with ASEAN playing a central role need to be well promoted, reports Xinhua.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc also delivered a speech at the ceremony, announcing that ASEAN will officially finalize the negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and sign the deal at the upcoming RCEP summit, which would affirm strong determination on free trade and ASEAN’s ties with partners.

He suggested that ASEAN should focus resources and efforts at the highest level to gradually reduce the risk of Covid-19, make vaccines and effective treatment methods available soon, and promote measures to support businesses in resuming production and activities to ensure employment and livelihoods for local people.

Within the framework of the summit, the bloc will approve the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and its implementation plan, Phuc said, noting that the recovery of trade exchange in the region is underway and the bloc may consider resuming travel routes for ASEAN citizens.

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The 37th ASEAN summit and related summits scheduled for Nov. 12-15 comprises over twenty high-level events.

The ASEAN group comprising Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam was established in 1967. Vietnam is the ASEAN chair for 2020.

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