Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (second, left), US State Secretary Mike Pompeo (centre) and other officials at the ASEAN-US Ministerial Meeting in Singapore on August 3 (Photo: VNA)

Singapore (VNA) – Foreign ministers of ASEAN countries held meetings with their counterparts from the bloc’s partners, including the Republic of Korea (RoK), Canada, Australia, the US, and the European Union (EU), in Singapore on August 3.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh led the Vietnamese delegation to these meetings, where the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)’s partners reaffirmed that they attach importance to the relationship with the grouping, support its central role in the region, and will actively take part in ASEAN-chaired forums.

At the meeting with the RoK, the ASEAN countries welcomed initiatives within the framework of the RoK’s “New Southern Policy”, which aims to enhance cooperation with the bloc on the three pillars of peace, prosperity and humans.

The foreign ministers agreed to continue efforts to facilitate trade and investment and connect businesses and the private sector of the two sides. They noted bilateral trade has doubled over the last decade since the ASEAN-RoK Free Trade Agreement took effect in 2007, adding that they are working to boost the figure to 200 billion USD by 2020.

At the meeting, Cambodia – coordinator of ASEAN-RoK relations – officially handed over this role in the 2018-2021 period to Brunei.

Meeting with the Canadian foreign minister, the ASEAN hailed the country’s active support for ASEAN-led mechanisms and stronger cooperation in prioritized fields on the basis of the ASEAN-Canada Plan of Action for 2016-2020, particularly in the fight against terrorism, violent extremism and trans-national crimes, trade-investment, connectivity, science, technology, innovation, environment, response to climate change, education, and tourism.

At this event, the Philippines – coordinator for ASEAN-Canada relations – transferred the role in 2018-2021 to Myanmar.

In another meeting, the ASEAN and the EU recognised the positive outcomes of the ASEAN-EU Plan of Action for 2018-2022, which was approved in August 2017. They emphasised their commitment to promoting a rule-based international order.

The two sides also encouraged each other to enhance cooperation in such fields as trade, including the possibility of resuming negotiations on an ASEAN-EU free trade agreement, and a deal on air transport.

The ASEAN foreign ministers highly valued the EU’s assistance for the former to bolster regional connectivity and narrow development gap.

On this occasion, Thailand handed over the role of coordinator for ASEAN-EU relations in 2018-2021 to Singapore.

At the meeting between the ASEAN and Australia, the participating officials noted strides in the implementation of the ASEAN-Australia Plan of Action in 2015-2019. They agreed to step up partnerships in prioritised areas such as fighting terrorism and violent extremism, cyber security, border management and combating human trafficking, marine security, defence, economy, adaptation to climate change and disaster management.

The ministers pledged to maintain a free and open regional and international trade system. They also discussed measures to foster trade and investment ties through the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, adding that they hope to soon finalise negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement.

At the end of the meeting, Myanmar handed over the role of coordinator for ASEAN-Australia relations to Malaysia.

Meeting with the US Secretary of State, the ASEAN ministers stressed that the balanced and mutually beneficial economic ties between the ASEAN and the US have been bringing enormous benefits to both sides.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US highly values the ASEAN’s role in ensuring peace and stability in the region, and the country puts the bloc at the centre between the Indian Ocean and Pacific regions in its strategy.

The two sides agreed to continue promoting ties in trade, connectivity, marine cooperation and response to trans-national challenges such as terrorism and violent extremism.

The ASEAN welcomed the initiatives regarding security, sustainable development, good governance, education, young people, and start-up, among others.

Concluding the event, Laos officially took over the role of coordinating ASEAN-US relations in 2018-2021 from Malaysia.

Addressing these meetings, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh re-affirmed that the RoK, Canada, Australia, the US and the EU are important partners of the ASEAN.

He applauded the partners’ active coordination with the ASEAN to enhance dialogue and cooperation for peace, stability and development in the region.

Minh underlined Vietnam’s support for the proposed prioritised fields of cooperation and expressed the wish to join other countries in continuing to build and realise many concrete initiatives.–VNA