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ASEAN, US talk Covid, cooperation

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Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn during the virtual ASEAN-US foreign ministers’ meeting on Friday. FOREIGN MINISTRY

ASEAN, US talk Covid, cooperation

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn thanked the US for its significant contributions to the fight against Covid-19 in Cambodia. Sokhonn said he was optimistic that ASEAN and the US could join hands to bring Covid-19 under control leading to a quick resumption of global trade.

Sokhonn made the remarks while attending the virtual ASEAN-US Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on September 23, according to the ministry’s press statement.

“[Sokhonn] expressed optimism that ASEAN and the US could soon put an end to the Covid-19 pandemic to enable safe resumption of travel, business and economic exchanges, not only within ASEAN but also between ASEAN and the US and with the rest of the world,” it said.

Besides Covid-19, the meeting – which was also attended by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken – touched on ASEAN-US cooperation and regional and international issues of common interest and concern, including cooperation to address trans-boundary issues such as climate change, the statement said.

According to the statement, ASEAN expressed appreciation for the US’ commitment to a comprehensive set of actions for ending the global pandemic, the provision of more than 23 million vaccines doses and nearly $160 million in emergency health and humanitarian assistance to ASEAN member states.

ASEAN also appreciated the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) efforts to assist the bloc in developing an ASEAN Public Health Emergency Coordination System.

“ASEAN and the US share the view that vaccines should not be used as a political tool, and it is a necessity to enhance equitable access to vaccines and expedite vaccination around the globe,” the statement said.

The meeting also discussed other topics with participants exchanging views on a number of regional and international issues related to stability and security in Southeast Asia, including the situation in Myanmar and concern over the US-China relationship and rivalry.

Sokhonn shared his concerns about the negative implications of an escalation of geopolitical competition along with other issues.

Thong Mengdavid, research fellow at the Asian Vision Institute’s Mekong Centre for Strategic Studies, said on September 26 that ASEAN-US cooperation is progressing smoothly with both sides showing support for each other in the fight against Covid-19 and issues such as the environment, energy, security and stability in the region.

But he said the production supply chain and trade in general have been hampered by Covid-19, both in ASEAN and between ASEAN, the US and other countries, but the US’ commitment to providing financial support totalling $160 million through USAID and 23 million vaccine doses to ASEAN will help to speed up vaccination and recovery efforts in the region.

“This demonstrates the effectiveness of diplomatic efforts based on the spirit of multilateralism towards achieving sustainable development and ensuring stability and security in the region and this kind of cooperation is in line with ASEAN’s vision and goals,” he said.

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