Getting the sputtering Southeast Asian economy back on a growth path was the main focus of the meeting of Asean leaders in Hanoi on Friday, which discussed the social and economic impact caused by the Covid-19 crisis and post-pandemic recovery, threadbare.
The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations discussed the issues facing the region at a summit held virtually due to the pandemic, with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc serving as the host.
The 36th Asean Summit provided an opportunity for the regional countries to affirm their ‘solidarity, strong political will and high determination to overcome all the current global challenges.
The leaders pledged to strengthen mechanisms to create a region ‘capable of dealing with the current global challenges and ‘reduce the impacts of Covid-19 through comprehensive recovery plans, said Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.
Besides consensus and consultation, the leaders agreed that ‘strengthened co-ordination is the key to effectively responding to the crisis.
The Asean leaders recalled the need to strengthen existing bonds of regional solidarity to realise an Asean Community that is politically cohesive, economically integrated and socially responsible in order to effectively respond to current and future challenges and opportunities as stipulated in the Asean Charter.
They reaffirmed the importance of building a peaceful, stable, rules-based, people-oriented, people-centred and resilient Asean Community with enhanced capacity to seize opportunities and respond effectively to challenges as stated in the Asean Community Vision 2025.
The leaders emphasised the need to enhance co-operation and mutual support among Asean member states, with its external partners and the international community in the fight against Covid-19.
The meeting was held at a time when the region is gradually reopening after lockdowns to check the spread of Covid-19 and negotiates travel lanes with other nations.
During the summit, the leaders of at least four Asean countries — Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand — proposed creating ‘travel bubbles, or corridors among member states, to help revive the regional economy.
Travel bubble is now the new buzzword in Asia, as several countries, particularly in South East Asia, appear to have Covid-19 under control.
Travel bubble seeks to help reconnect countries that have shown a good level of success in containing the novel coronavirus pandemic domestically.
Although in very early stages, countries in Asean — Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia are now considering creation of a travel bubble as they are flattening the curve of virus infections and starting to reopen their economies.
Tourism in the Asean was hit early because of its proximity to China, where the virus broke out, and its reliance on Chinese tourists for revenue.
All over Southeast Asia, governments and companies are focusing on domestic tourism in the wake of the collapse in international travel.
Asean normally holds summit meetings in spring and fall.
Vietnam was originally scheduled to host one in Danang in April, but it was postponed due to the pandemic and was eventually held as a virtual conference.