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China, ASEAN to Cooperate in Bird Flu Battle

A senior Chinese official on Tuesday called for enhanced regional and international exchanges and cooperation in controlling Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) that has hit some Asian countries since mid-December last year.

Speaking at the China-ASEAN Special Meeting on HPAI Control convened in Beijing Tuesday, Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu said the disease has inflicted heavy blows on Asia's poultry industry and had a negative impact on the region's socio-economic development. He added that it has become a major concern to the region and the international community.

Hui said that since bird flu broke out in some places in China early this year, the government has timely informed the public of the epidemic and mapped out guidelines and measures for its control. As a result, the disease has been effectively contained and not a single case of human infection has been detected.

"We strongly believe that the Chinese government and people have the confidence and capability to win the campaign against HPAI," he said.

HPAI is a virulent viral animal disease, classified as type A, which has become a transnational challenge, Hui said. He calls for joint efforts and close cooperation within the international community to bring it under control.

Hui said China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are good neighbors, enjoying profound traditional friendships and excellent cooperative relations.

"We are ready to work hand in hand with ASEAN nations and international organizations to strengthen our collaboration and exchange so that we can join our efforts to fight against the bird flu," he said.

To this end, the vice premier presented six proposals:

· To establish and build up, through firm political commitment and effective regional cooperation, confidence in conquering the epidemic.

· To improve the communication mechanism between China and ASEAN for the benefit of timely sharing full and accurate information on the epidemic situation.

· To intensify efforts in the exchange of measures, technologies and lessons in HPAI control so as to learn from each other and share the achievements made and knowledge emerging in this field.

· To create a regional joint prevention and control mechanism to curb HPAI's spread and safeguard the public health and poultry production.

· To encourage provision of mutual and necessary assistance. The Chinese government stands ready to provide ASEAN members with financial, material and technical assistance for HPAI control within its capacity.

· To enhance international collaboration by actively promoting bilateral or multilateral cooperation and exchange, particularly with international organizations such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

At the meeting, representatives from China, 10 ASEAN countries, the ASEAN Secretariat, UNFAO, WHO and the World Organization for Animal Health, analyzed the bird flu epidemic in affected countries and exchanged experience and concrete measures on prevention and control.

The participants also discussed and identified China-ASEAN countermeasures to combat the epidemic, such as the launch of the China-ASEAN Fund for Public Health, technical cooperation programs and personnel training.

The parties issued a joint statement that stressed combating the bird flu with strong political will, cross-departmental cooperation and national- and regional-level partnerships. They agreed to make collective efforts to meet the challenges posed by the disease, and laid down concrete measures such as establishing a China-ASEAN cooperation mechanism for public health.

Prior to the event's opening ceremony, Hui met with Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suvit Khunkitti, who was here to attend the meeting.
(Xinhua News Agency March 3, 2004)


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