PSNews –Since Vietnam assumed the ASEAN Chairmanship 2020 at the beginning of 2020, the country has successfully applied digital technology to hosting virtual regional meetings instead of physical meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thanks to Vietnam’s flexibility and digital capabilities, regional cooperation mechanisms have been maintained, and regional countries, particularly ASEAN countries, have been able to share information about regional security situations as well as approaches to deal with common security challenges.
While its neighbors were still struggling with the pandemic, Vietnam was surprisingly creative in its diplomatic activities, and made the best use of the situation to bring benefits to not only itself but also the ASEAN community, an article published by The Diplomat wrote.
|Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh.
Speaking at the press conference ahead of the 37th ASEAN Summit, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affair Nguyen Quoc Dung announced that, due to the complicated situation of the COVID-19 pandemic in many countries, Vietnam decided to host the 37th ASEAN Summit and related meetings in a virtual format.
Normally, ASEAN diplomacy is conducted differently, and it is known that major agreements are reached on golf courses and at sideline meetings… Virtual events will dilute the ‘ASEAN way’ of doing things, a Thai expert on East Asia spoke to The Diplomat in early 2020.
Indeed, everyone knows that one of the “specialties” of ASEAN official meetings is the sideline meeting, where all attitudes, emotions or expressions of regional leaders captured easily by the media can signal the results of the meetings. But it is impossible for reporters covering a virtual meeting to predict the result of the event.
|Overview of the signing ceremony for the RCEP Agreement.
But major virtual regional meetings last year still drew much attention from international journalists as Vietnam demonstrated its leadership ability and responsibility when it invited all leaders of the ASEAN countries to the online 37th ASEAN Summit as well as Russia, China, the US, Japan and Republic of Korea to ASEAN+1 summits and related meetings held virtually.
Although all these important regional meetings were virtually hosted by Vietnam last year, more than 80 important documents were proposed to be approved, the highest number to date.
Especially, after 8 years of negotiations, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed at a virtual regional meeting.
2020 was the first year that almost all meetings and summits of ASEAN and regional countries were held online. But the very virtual format helped ASEAN maintain coordination, cooperation and agree on many important issues in various fields, including cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in the region.
The signing ceremony of RCEP Agreement was unprecedentedly held, and all people admired and praised Vietnam for its competence in applying the digital technology that bridged geographical distances and created favorable for leaders of the member countries to sign the agreement.
“The signing ceremony of the RCEP Agreement within the 37th ASEAN Summit officially begins!” the MC said at 12 am on November 15 (Hanoi time). All leaders of the 15 participating countries witnessed their economic ministers sign the special agreement. The signing ceremony was carried out solemnly with full protocols, including a joint photo shoot, which was however taken online.
“As the ASEAN 2020 Chair, I would like extend my sincere thanks to leaders of the ASEAN countries and partner countries, the Secretary General of ASEAN and all for your supports and efforts over the past years”, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc stated at the closing of the signing ceremony. His statement marked the success in signing a historic agreement, as well as showed the cooperation effort across time and space of all ASEAN member countries and partners.
At the end of the signing ceremony, Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh from the Hanoi handed over the signed agreement to Secretary General of ASEAN Dato Lim Jock Hoi from Jakarta.
The screen, at that time, was divided in half: The Vietnamese Minister on one half and the ASEAN Secretary General on the other. On the screen, the two officials were seen handing to each other their signed agreements, although they did, in fact, hand them to their assistants at the two ends.
The very digital technology made it possible. All reporters watching the summit were amazed by Vietnam’s mastery of technology. “I did not think the signing ceremony could have worked that way. Great!” a reporter from Nikkei excitedly spoke to his colleague.
Less than an hour later, news on the “online handshake in the digital age” ran across international newspapers with the same theme: “The world's largest free trade agreement has been signed!”
Recalling Vietnam’s ASEAN Chairmanship 2020, all praised the theme of the ASEAN Year 2020: “Cohesive and Responsive”, the success of the 37th ASEAN Summit, the signing of the historic regional economic and trade agreement and the great effort of the host country.
In fact, the 37th ASEAN Summit will always be remembered as Vietnam’s success story in the digital era.By An Nhien