China calls on ASEAN Plus Three countries to work for early victory against COVID-19 in East Asia

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, April 15, 2020
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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attends a special summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ASEAN Plus Three countries or 10+3) on COVID-19 via video link in Beijing, capital of China, April 14, 2020. (Xinhua/Wang Ye)

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ASEAN Plus Three or APT) to pool efforts in clinching an early victory against COVID-19 in East Asia.

Li made the remarks in Beijing while attending a special summit of the ASEAN Plus Three on COVID-19 via video link.

Noting that with more than 200 countries and regions affected to date, Li said COVID-19 is gravely threatening the health, safety and life of people around the world and is putting the global economy under severe strain.

He called on APT countries to act with greater synergy and common purpose and to send a message of partnership, solidarity and mutual assistance to secure an early victory against COVID-19 in East Asia.

"The battle against COVID-19 has made us more aware that we are in a community with a shared future," Li said.

Enhance public health capacity

Li called on APT countries to enhance all-round epidemic cooperation to jointly curb the spread of COVID-19 and build up public health capacity.

China will provide another 100 million face masks, 10 million protective suits and other urgently needed medical supplies to ASEAN countries as grant assistance and via commercial channels, he said.

China supports ASEAN in setting up a COVID-19 ASEAN response fund, and will provide necessary support through the ASEAN-China Cooperation Fund and APT Cooperation Fund, said Li, noting that China suggests an APT reserve of essential medical supplies be established to make responses faster and emergency supplies more readily available.

The premier said APT countries also need to support the World Health Organization (WHO) in playing a leading role, and work together to safeguard regional and global public health security.

The special summit, chaired by Vietnam in its capacity as ASEAN chair for 2020, is a key get-together for the East Asian region's COVID-19 response taking place after the G20 Extraordinary Virtual Leaders' Summit on COVID-19 on March 26.

Leaders of the ten ASEAN countries, ROK President Moon Jae-in, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and ASEAN Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi also attended meeting.

The participating leaders shared the view that in the face of the unprecedented challenge posed by COVID-19, APT countries should carry forward the tradition of cooperation, demonstrate solidarity and join hands in tackling this challenge.

It is important to enhance experience and information sharing, conduct joint research and development of drugs and vaccines, and build up regional mechanisms for epidemic control, they said.

Restore economic vitality

APT countries, representing the bulk of Asia's economy, have a total trade volume of over 10 trillion U.S. dollars, almost half of which is intra-regional trade.

As close neighbors, the APT countries have developed a full-fledged industrial chain and a mutually complementary specialization structure, said Li.

He called on the APT countries to demonstrate their positive and special role in fighting the epidemic and revitalizing the economy.

APT countries need to further ease tariffs, eliminate barriers, boost the flow of trade and investment, and keep markets open to each other, said Li.

He proposed opening a "fast-track lane" for essential personnel on urgent visits in the fields of commerce, logistics, production and technological services among APT countries.

APT countries also need to work toward signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement within this year as agreed and endeavor to take regional economic integration to a higher level, Li said.

He also suggested making full use of mechanisms such as the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization and leveraging the APT Macroeconomic Research Office to strengthen crisis preparedness.

APT countries should also strive to ensure regional grain supply and market security, he added.

The participating leaders said APT countries need to enhance macro economic policy coordination, ensure the smooth functioning of the industrial and supply chains, gradually restore social and economic order, and anchor market confidence.

They agreed that APT countries should make the best effort toward signing the RCEP agreement within this year.

A joint statement of the summit was released after the meeting.

Hwang Jae-ho, director of the Global Security Cooperation Center at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, said the COVID-19 response reflects the importance of building a "community with a shared future for humanity."

It is an urgent need for East Asia not only to build "an epidemic prevention community" to contain the outbreak, but also "an economic community" to address the impact on economy, said Hwang.

Geographically close, APT countries have close contacts and a good foundation for cooperation, said Hwang, adding that the outcome of this online summit shows the cohesion of the APT countries in coping with the crisis.

The APT cooperation mechanism was set up in response to the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s and then emerged even stronger from the international financial crisis in 2008.

Wu Jianghao, director-general of the Department of Asian Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said Tuesday's meeting strengthened APT countries' will to coordinate, boosted their confidence and identified the direction of cooperation.

"China is encouraged to see the outcomes of the summit," Wu said at a press briefing after the summit, adding that China stands ready to stay in close cooperation with all parties to act on the consensus reached by the leaders, take effective measures and work together to overcome the pandemic and restore economic vitality in the region at an early date. 

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