Call for continued support from ASEAN partners

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam during the 2nd ASEAN-Australia Biennial Summit urged ASEAN and Australia to work for a swift regional economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The monarch believed that the upgrading of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) would bring more benefits to businesses and people.

His Majesty in a titah highlighted that Australia continues to play an important role in promoting regional peace, stability and prosperity, in which ASEAN-Australia cooperation has progressed over the years in mutually beneficial areas such as trade and education. His Majesty believes that ASEAN-Australia cooperation will be further strengthened with the agreement to hold an annual summit starting in 2021.

His Majesty highlighted ASEAN’s appreciation for Australia’s support in addressing the impacts of COVID-19, including the continued supply of food to ASEAN member states during the outbreak. His Majesty stressed the importance of strengthening healthcare systems for the future, and encouraged more capacity-building initiatives in this area, including in safeguarding peoples’ mental health and well-being.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in his statement commended ASEAN on its cohesive and responsive approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, and recognised ASEAN Centrality as the core of Australia’s vision of the Indo-Pacific. Under the ASEAN-Australia Strategic Partnership, Australia underlined its commitment to support the development of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, as well as cooperation in the fields of health and science. Australia also outlined its financial contributions in ASEAN towards achieving economic recovery in line with ASEAN’s priorities.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam during the 2nd ASEAN-Australia Biennial Summit. PHOTO: INFOFOTO

At the end of the summit, the ASEAN and Australia leaders adopted the Joint Statement of the Second ASEAN-Australia Biennial Summit: Strong Partnership for Recovery.

Meanwhile, at the 8th ASEAN-United States Summit, His Majesty in a titah stressed that the United States’ (US) strategic engagement with ASEAN remains crucial to ensuring peace, security and prosperity in the region, and that this has helped ASEAN’s socio-economic development and community building efforts over the years.

In addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, His Majesty highlighted ASEAN’s appreciation for US commitment to the ongoing initiatives in improving ASEAN’s medical and health capacities while encouraging further progress, specifically to cooperate with the US to provide affordable and effective COVID-19 vaccines for all ASEAN member countries.

In addition, ASEAN welcomes the Joint Statement on Human Capital Development at the 8th ASEAN-US Summit, and looks forward to initiatives that could help develop their people’s skills in information and communication technology (ICT), digital literacy and cybersecurity to take into account the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

His Majesty said ASEAN also encourages the US’ continued support in ASEAN businesses through the enhancement of their digital skillsets so they could better participate in the digital economy.

National Security Advisor and Special Envoy to the US President Robert O’Brien delivered a statement on behalf of President Donald Trump which expressed US’ appreciation towards ASEAN efforts to keep supply chains open, which contribute to the robust foundation for ASEAN-US cooperation in public health and combatting infectious diseases through which the US has contributed ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) to ASEAN partners.

Furthermore, ASEAN-US cooperation in science, health, education, livelihoods and security has grown dramatically. The US highlighted its investments in education, academic, cultural and professional exchanges as well as providing training for young women entrepreneurs in ASEAN to continue their businesses online despite the pandemic.

Meanwhile, at the ASEAN-New Zealand Commemorative Summit, His Majesty in a titah expressed satisfaction in celebrating the 45th anniversary of ASEAN-New Zealand Dialogue Relations, in which the cooperation continues to bring mutual benefits for the peoples in a wide range of areas.

His Majesty called on ASEAN and New Zealand to focus on improving the peoples’ livelihoods and building a resilient region, particularly in pursuing efforts for a swift regional recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring that businesses and trade remain active, and supply chains, connected.

Amid the rapid growths of internet users in the region, His Majesty encouraged ASEAN and New Zealand to promote e-commerce, which would provide more opportunities and greater market access, particularly for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and other consumers in the region. Therefore, ASEAN looks forward to upgrading the AANZFTA to advance economic growth and integration.

His Majesty emphasised that ASEAN and New Zealand need to ensure that their recovery efforts are environmentally friendly and sustainable, and therefore cooperation on mitigating climate change and disaster management is greatly encouraged.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in her statement acknowledged that the broad and deep relationship of ASEAN and New Zealand has brought about peace and prosperity in the region with great success. ASEAN is one of New Zealand’s top trading and investment partners and forms a critical strategic hub, connecting New Zealand to Asia and the rest of the world. In facing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, New Zealand emphasised its commitment towards free and equitable access to vaccines, keeping supply chains open and resilient, as well as a rules-based international order.

At the end of the Summit, the ASEAN and New Zealand Leaders adopted the Joint ASEAN-New Zealand Leaders’ Vision Statement on the 45th Anniversary of ASEAN-New Zealand Dialogue Relations: A Legacy of Partnership, A Future Together.