Singaporean PM calls for stronger economic ties between ASEAN, key partners hinh anh 1(Photo: AFP/VNA)

Singapore (VNA) - ASEAN countries and their key partners should deepen economic cooperation and maintain connectivity to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said.

Speaking at the summits between ASEAN and key partners held virtually on November 12 under the chair of Vietnam, the Singaporean PM said the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal will reflect the commitment to "uphold a rules-based multilateral trading system and promote regional economic integration".

He was quoted by The Straits Times journal as welcoming Chinese President Xi Jinping's commitment to make vaccines a public good and prioritise the needs of the region, as well as China's participation in the Covax Facility, which he said reflects its close relationship with ASEAN.

At the ASEAN-the Republic of Korea (RoK) Summit, PM Lee said strengthening economic cooperation would help in the countries' recovery.

The work to update the ASEAN-RoK Free Trade Area will help businesses cope with the pandemic's impact and create more growth opportunities, he added.

On enhancing connectivity, he highlighted the need to maintain open and connected supply chains so trade flows - including of essential supplies such as food and medical equipment - are not impeded.

At the ASEAN-Japan Summit, PM Lee said Japan has also contributed to ASEAN's COVID-19 initiatives through consistent engagement and economic pacts. He also thanked Japan for its role in bringing the RCEP to "fruition".

At the ASEAN-India summit, PM Lee said: "We understand India's decision not to sign the RCEP at this time. But Singapore stands ready to welcome India to the RCEP, whenever it is ready to re-join."

PM Lee said COVID-19 has emphasised the importance of ASEAN strengthening its strategic partnership with India, including in research and development for vaccines and treatments for the virus. India, he noted, is a key player in the global pharmaceutical supply chain and has deep technological and biomedical expertise.

The RCEP, which will be the world's largest trade pact, involves 15 countries: ASEAN's 10 member states, as well as China, Japan, RoK, Australia and New Zealand. Together, they contribute about one-third of the world's gross domestic product.

The same day, The Nation journal of Thailand said that Thai Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit is scheduled to sign the (RCEP) on November 15 at a virtual meeting of ASEAN countries and their partners./.