ASEAN economic ministers yesterday completed the second working day of the ASEAN Economic Ministers Caucus Meeting on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the 26th ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) Retreat by released a joint statement in response to the outbreak of COVID-19.
The Ministers, who gathered in series working sessions in Đà Nẵng on March 8-11, all agreed to work together to deal with the novel coronavirus.
The statement expressed deep concern about the disease and conveyed ministers’ sympathies to countries affected worldwide.
The statement also emphasised the importance of ASEAN solidarity when facing such an outbreak and acknowledged ongoing efforts by the individual states, sectoral bodies as well as other economies in controlling the spread and impact of the virus.
ASEAN ministers also commended the significant contribution of health and non-health personnel helping those affected by COVID-19.
They also recognised the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on the economy, particularly travel and tourism, manufacturing, retail and other services sectors as well as the disruption of supply chains and financial markets.
The statement emphasised the urgent need for concerted efforts to avoid further adverse impacts on the global economy.
It noted the Chairman’s Press Statement on COVID-19 released by the ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC) in Vientiane, Laos on February 20, which reaffirmed the region’s commitment to maintaining ASEAN’s open economic and integration policies and fostering regional resilience, while standing ready to work with external partners and the international community to fight COVID-19.
Ministers of the 10 ASEAN member countries agreed that restrictions on cross-border movements should be based on public health considerations, and should not unnecessarily restrict regional trade.
They also agreed to take a collective course of action to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19.
Ministers said they will keep the ASEAN market open for trade and investment, strengthen regional information sharing and collaboration in responding to the economic challenges brought about by the outbreak, and work with industry stakeholders to instil confidence in Southeast Asia as a trade, investment and tourism hub.
The statement floated using technologies and digital trade to allow businesses, especially micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to continue operations amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.
It will help boost the implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025 and enhance ASEAN economic co-operation with external and development partners to include initiatives aimed at strengthening regional supply chains to make them more resilient and less vulnerable to internal and external shocks.
They agreed to build on existing trade facilitating platforms such as the ASEAN Single Window (ASW), to promote and support supply chain connectivity; refrain from actions that can create unnecessary inflationary pressures or adversely impact food security in the region, and endeavour to ensure the availability of basic goods and commodities; and continue addressing non-tariff barriers, particularly those that impede the smooth flow of goods and services in supply chains, and refrain from imposing new and unnecessary non-tariff measures.
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