Singapore (VNA) – Complicated external situation has made collaboration within the ASEAN bloc more important than ever before, a Singaporean expert told the Vietnam News Agency on the occasion of the 53rd ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting and related conference underway in Hanoi.

Dr Malcolm Cook, a visiting senior fellow with the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS)-Yusof Ishak Institute, said the COVID-19 pandemic, the US-China rivalry and concern-causing activities by China have greatly constrained ASEAN’s agenda and ability to act collectively.

Completion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) would be a good sign, showing that the bloc is able to facilitate greater regional economic integration at a time when this is impossible through the World Trade Organisation (WTO), he said.
Regarding Vietnam’s role as the ASEAN Chair in 2020 in promoting joint regional efforts to deal with the challenges, Cook said the country has done a good job during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The country has supported the ASEAN and ASEAN mechanisms so as to address the pandemic’s impact in the region, while maintaining progress on core ASEAN initiatives like RCEP, he said.

“Vietnam has been given a very tough task as chair of ASEAN and so far has handled it well”, Cook emphasised./.