Modern Diplomacy, an invaluable platform for assessing and evaluating complex international issues, on November 10 ran an article giving an assessment of Vietnam’s performance as ASEAN 2020 Chair and the significance of the 37th ASEAN Summit for the region amid current challenges.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc chairs the Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit on COVID-19 in April. (Photo: VNA)
Acccording to the article, Vietnam took over the chairmanship of ASEAN from Thailand in November 2019, and outlined the motto for the ASEAN meetings in 2020 to be ‘cohesive and responsive’. This was meant to bring about more consensus and unity with regard to initiatives such as promoting internal strength of the organisation, developing economic connectivity and integration as well as revisiting the ASEAN values and identities in the context of new emerging challenges. Vietnam took the chairmanship of ASEAN when the organisation was facing challenges with regard to peace and security, climate change affects, and also the need for outlining the future for developing the region as an ASEAN community.VNA/VOV
Over the period of eleven months ASEAN has worked strongly with regard to developing better relationship with dialogue partners including European Union, China and India as well as coordinating meetings between ASEAN and Japan, most of them in online mode, it said.
Interestingly, the agenda for the year 2020 has been outlined for ASEAN under the Vietnam chairmanship and there were challenges with regard to addressing issues related to economic integration and also developing common protocols about public health emergencies, and sharing of information related to the countermeasures against COVID- 19. In fact, during the ASEAN senior officials meeting many issues which have been discussed in the past have been highlighted and a common consensus was reached. During the ASEAN foreign ministers meeting which was held in September 2020, it was highlighted that there is a need for reinforcing the ASEAN community vision of the year 2020, and buttressing ASEAN centrality in new multilateral formulations in the region, clearly alluding to the Indo-Pacific construct.
“Vietnam has effectively brought about comprehensive assessment of the institutional mechanisms within the organisation, and also reviewed the documents with regard to ASEAN community blueprints. The most important aspect which has been highlighted by Vietnam has been developing collective effort against the COVID-19 pandemic, and establishing joint groups related to public health emergencies. The challenges for the post COVID-19 recovery have already been considered by the ASEAN organisation and it was suggested that the organisation should undertake comprehensive recovery framework as well as a time bound implementation plan. This highlighted the need for research and joint production, and distribution of vaccines through cold chain supply networks so that the larger population of the Southeast Asia could be protected from this pandemic in future,” said the article.
The major consideration which have been addressed by Hanoi has been in the field of trade facilitation and doing away with unnecessary non-tariff measures so that supply resilience as well as new challenges such as food security, financial stability and issues related to energy can be addressed in a cohesive way.
One of the earliest meetings which was conducted by Vietnam has been in the framework of the ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC) organised at Laos which acknowledged the gravity of the situation in the COVID-19 phase, and stated that ASEAN solidarity and unity is necessary for preventing and making countermeasures against this pandemic. This meeting undertook special measures such as emergency operations centre and also taking necessary cohesive joint actions related to assistance, information and sharing of best practices. Outlining the need for cooperation with ASEAN dialogue partners, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and related bodies, highlighted the adeptness of Vietnam in understanding the problems with regard to pandemics and bringing about consensus on these issues.
According to the article, even before ACC meetings when the foreign ministers retreat was held in January 2020, the issues of the stability and prosperity as well as addressing the emerging challenges in the East Sea was addressed without any biases. Even though one of the biggest handicaps which was faced by Vietnam during the whole year has been conduct of online conferences and developing understanding among ASEAN member states but Vietnam very tactfully addressed the issue of 4th industry revolution in the meetings, and how it is going to change the economic landscape of the region. It also highlighted the relevance of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) and exuded confidence that many other non-regional countries will be accepting the TAC.
Major initiatives which have been taken by the Vietnam under the chairmanship included better cooperation on transnational crime, public security and coordination among the ASEAN law enforcement agencies. Recognising the need for better financial architecture in the Southeast Asia, Hanoi has brought about dialogue between financial institutions and banking sectors in Southeast Asia. it also addressed that there is a need for developing better organised financial architecture which can bring about financial stability.
The article said despite lot of constraints because of the online meetings, Vietnam was still able to get approval of more than 42 documents during the September meeting of the ASEAN foreign ministers. The one interesting part was to bring about more activities and responsibilities to the ASEAN Regional Forum under the Hanoi Plan of Action -II (2020-2025). One of the major highlights has been discussing the East Sea, and referring to it as East Sea during the ministerial meetings.
Vietnam is expected to take the lead with regard to outlining the utility of TAC, undertaking preparations with regard to granting development partnership to European nations such as France and Italy well at the same time bringing Cuba and Columbia as the new signatory to the TAC, noted it.