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 joined other ASEAN Leaders and ASEAN Dialogue Partners for the 23rd ASEAN-China Summit; the 23rd ASEAN-Japan Summit; and the 21st ASEAN-Republic of Korea Summit, held virtually via video conferences from Baitul Mesyuarah, Istana Nurul Iman yesterday.
At the 23rd ASEAN-China Summit, His Majesty acknowledged the People’s Republic of China’s support for ASEAN’s community-building efforts over the years, and towards mitigating the COVID-19, which have translated into positive outcomes for the region’s economy, including continued growth of ASEAN and China’s two-way trade despite the global economic downturn. To this end, greater efforts are encouraged to further open up trade and realise the full potential of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to facilitate ASEAN’s recovery efforts.
The year 2021 marks the 30th anniversaries of ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations and Brunei-China Diplomatic Relations, as well as the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.
His Majesty acknowledged the opportunity next year to build greater understanding and deepen trust and confidence amongst ASEAN and China, which will enhance cooperation on all fronts in taking relations to greater heights.
Meanwhile, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China Li Keqiang in his statement highlighted China becoming ASEAN’s top trading partner and reiterated the commitment of China and ASEAN in pursuing common development and promoting mutally beneficial cooperation in East Asia to boost global development.
The leaders also touched on the importance of digital economy to regional resilience; trade and investment; connectivity and the ASEAN Smart Cities Network; people-to-people exchanges; and welcomed the designation of 2021 as the ASEAN-China Year of Sustainable Development Cooperation to cooperate on key areas for sustainable development.
At the 23rd ASEAN-Japan Summit, His Majesty in a titah appreciated Japan’s contributions to establishing the ASEAN Centre for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases, whereby the centre will greatly improve the region’s preparedness for any future health crises.
In view of Japan’s expertise in technology and innovation, His Majesty welcomed cooperation in various areas such as automation and digital technology that would help to develop a workforce that is skilled and prepared for the future.
Earlier, Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Nguyen Xuan Phuc as the ASEAN Chairman, in his remarks, spoke about the pressing need for ASEAN-Japan to expand cohesive cooperation including to combat COVID-19 and mitigate its impacts. In addition, joint activities have been held to show close partnership between ASEAN and Japan.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga said that Japan will work hand in hand with ASEAN to accomplish a free, open and more prosperous Indo-Pacific. Japan is ready to build economic resilience into supply chains and advancing the use of digital technology. Along with fundamental principles of cooperation such as maritime cooperation, achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, connectivity, and the environment, the prime minister also spoke about Japan’s support to ASEAN initiatives towards fulfilling the Paris Agreement.
At the end of the summit, the ASEAN and Japan leaders witnessed the launch of the ASEAN Regional Centre on Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases, of which Japan contributed USD50 million, through Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF) to support the centre’s establishment.
Meanwhile, at the 21st ASEAN-Republic of Korea (ROK) Summit, His Majesty in a titah delivered the ASEAN Common Statement, as Country Coordinator of ASEAN-ROK Dialogue Relations, in which His Majesty appreciated President of the Republic of Korea Moon Jae-in’s continued personal efforts to strengthen ASEAN–ROK relations, including through the New Southern Policy-Plus as well as the ROK’s strong support for ongoing ASEAN initiatives on measures to help overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, His Majesty welcomed the ROK’s proposal to establish a Health Dialogue Channel that would strengthen public health capacity through exchanges of information and expertise, and complement the work towards regional recovery.
His Majesty therefore looked forward to enhancing the ASEAN-ROK FTA through further liberalisation efforts that will bring more benefits to people, help businesses and the development of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
His Majesty also welcomed more scholarships and training opportunities from the ROK in various areas such as governance innovation, e-learning and farming technologies that can build resilient societies.
Furthermore, His Majesty was pleased with the ROK’s interest to deepen sub-regional cooperation, including with the BIMP-EAGA through a fund for joint projects which will facilitate inclusive and sustainable economic growth throughout the region.
Meanwhile, President Moon in his statement welcomed continued exchanges of cooperation between ASEAN and the ROK to overcome the pandemic, with the objective to create better preparedness in facing unexpected challenges. The ROK will share their expertise in managing the spread of the pandemic both from physical kits as well as financial contributions. The ROK hopes to take the lead in the post COVID-19 era towards building a people-centred community.
Meanwhile, at the 17th ASEAN-India Summit, His Majesty in a titah acknowledged the great importance of the ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership and highlighted the importance of India’s continued support for ASEAN centrality and ASEAN-led processes, as well as the contributions of India’s Act East Policy to further promoting peace, stability and mutual understanding in the region.
In these challenging times, the strong historical ties between ASEAN and India can serve as the foundation for close cooperation going forward, and encouraged more collaboration in areas such as education, youth and cultural exchanges.
In this regard, His Majesty encouraged focus on initiatives that can bring benefits to peoples’ livelihoods, such as through improving the ASEAN-India FTA to ensure greater market access and to enhance the facilitation of trade for businesses. Furthermore, His Majesty suggested more capacity building for business people, so they can better adapt to the digital economy.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister of the Republic of India Narendra Modi, in his statement highlighted that ASEAN has always been at the centre of India’s Act East Policy. Prime Minister Modi also shared that there are similarities between the Indo-Pacific Ocean Initiative and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. India’s key priority is to increase physical, economic, social, digital, financial and maritime connectivity.
The ASEAN Common Statement delivered by Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, Prayut Chan-o-cha as Country Coordinator of ASEAN-India Dialogue Relations, referred to ASEAN’s emphasis on the importance of health security particularly in scientific research and the production of antiviral medicine and vaccines, which should be a global public good.
ASEAN also emphasised the need to build an environment for mutual trust, conducive to a post-pandemic recovery through exploring the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and Indo-Pacific Ocean Initiative, as well as utilising the ASEAN-India FTA.
At the summit, the leaders also touched on joint collaboration to mitigate COVID-19 impact and to facilitate equitable deliveries of supply; upholding the principles of rules-based multilateral trading system to increase bilateral trade in the region, promote economic recovery, and sustain the supply chains; appreciate India’s support under the connectivity sector and promote both physical and digital connectivity; narrowing the development gap; and fostering cultural linkages based on ASEAN and India’s long history.