Australian Ambassador lauds Vietnam’s chairing 37th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits hinh anh 1At the second ASEAN-Australia Biennial Summit. (Photo: VNA)

Jakarta (VNA) -
Vietnam’s chairing the virtual 37th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits over the last week was an exceptional achievement given the hugely disruptive impact of COVID-19 on the ASEAN calendar this year, Australian Ambassador to ASEAN Will Nankervis has said.

In an interview granted to the Vietnam News Agency (VNA), Nankervis said the ASEAN-Australia and East Asia Summits are the pinnacles of a substantive year of cooperation for ASEAN and Australia.

This year marked a number of important anniversaries, including 15 years since the establishment of the EAS in 2005 - this in itself is a significant milestone for the ASEAN-led architecture.

Prime Minister Morrison participated in the ASEAN-Australia Summit and the East Asia Summit, both held by videoconference, on November 14.

“At the ASEAN-Australia Summit, the Prime Minister warmly welcomed ASEAN’s agreement to upgrade the tempo of our leaders’ meetings to annual summits, marking a new chapter in our strategic partnership,” the ambassador said.

The PM outlined a landmark series of Australian investments to support vaccine access, health security and recovery in Southeast Asia, which builds on Australia’s existing development assistance programmes with the region, worth around 1 billion AUD (731.57 million USD)  in 2020-21.

The package is in line with the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, which emphasises cooperation on maritime, connectivity, sustainable development and economic issues.

“We’ve been very pleased to see Vietnam maintain the momentum behind the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, which was agreed by member states last year,” Nankervis said.

The Outlook presents an ASEAN-centred view on issues in the Indo-Pacific and the importance of cooperation on maritime, connectivity, the Sustainable Development Goals and economic development issues, he added.  

“We welcomed Vietnam’s Chair’s statement from the ASEAN Summit in late June, which featured strong language on the East Sea; it underscored the importance of international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” the ambassador stressed.

Vietnam has actively engaged all dialogue partners to ensure ASEAN remains at the centre of regional dynamics, he went on.

Under Vietnam’s Chairmanship, and as the Prime Minister observed, Australia is working more closely than ever with ASEAN, according to the ambassador.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement which was signed on November 15  matters for its sheer size, collective economic weight and strategic significance in placing ASEAN at the centre of regional economic arrangements, he said.

RCEP countries account for almost a third of the world’s population and GDP, 58 percent of Australia’s trade and 67 percent of the country’s exports, according to Nankervis.

No other trade agreement brings together parties with the collective economic weight of the ASEAN member states and the major economies in the region.

RCEP sends a clear message that the region is committed to open trade and investment, he said, adding that the deal is testament to ASEAN leadership and a positive development for the entire Indo-Pacific region./.