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COVID-19 high on agenda at 36th ASEAN Summit: foreign media

Many foreign news agencies covered the teleconferenced 36th ASEAN Summit chaired by Vietnam on June 26, highlighting COVID-19 as one of its focuses.

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Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc speaks at the press conference following the 36th ASEAN Summit on June 26 (Photo: VNA)

Notably, AP reported that the event aimed to show unity and discuss a regional emergency fund to respond to the immense crisis brought by the coronavirus pandemic.

The news agency said the ASEAN leaders talked online due to regional travel restrictions and health risks that delayed dozens of meetings and shut out the ceremonial sessions, group handshakes and photo-ops that have been the trademark of the 10-nation bloc’s annual summits.

Despite this, Vietnam still organised a colorful opening ceremony with traditional songs and dances in Hanoi for about 200 Vietnamese officials and foreign diplomats. They showed up without masks and sat close to each other while the heads of state watched remotely on their screens, the article wrote.

AP also cited Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc as saying that the COVID-19 pandemic is a test for ASEAN, and it is fanning the flame of dormant challenges in the political, economic and social environment and helping escalate frictions among major powers.

Southeast Asian nations have been impacted by the pandemic differently, with hard-hit Indonesia grappling with more than 50,000 infections and more than 2,600 deaths, and the tiny state of Laos reporting just 19 cases. The diverse region of 650 million people, however, has been an Asian COVID-19 hot spot, with a combined total of more than 138,000 confirmed cases that have well surpassed those of China, where the outbreak started.

The economic toll has been harsh, with ASEAN’s leading economies, including Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, facing one of their most severe recessions in decades, according to the news agency.

AP noted that a high-priority project was the establishment of an ASEAN COVID-19 response fund which could be used to help member states purchase medical supplies and protective suits. A regional stockpile of medical supplies has also been approved.

36th ASEAN Summit makes history amid COVID-19: Malaysian news agency

Malaysia’s news agency Bernama has run an article titled “36th ASEAN Summit made history amid COVID-19”.

According to the article, the 36th ASEAN Summit, which was held virtually for the first time, witnessed leaders of the member states reaffirming their commitment for the need to further bolster cooperation in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Although restricted by movement and space, where leaders of the grouping had not been able to meet physically in Vietnam this time – including to perform the ASEAN tradition of crossover handshake – the meetings and interactions had proceeded virtually and in high spirit,” it wrote.

Under the chair of Vietnam, the one-day summit, which carried the theme “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN”, saw leaders discussing a wide range of issues and cooperation concerning the region, with focus on the need for a comprehensive post-pandemic recovery plan for ASEAN.

Bernama quoted Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in his opening remarks at the 36th ASEAN Summit as saying that ASEAN must also be prepared to deal with the challenges ahead.

He said for the latter half of 2020, the challenge would be for governments of the ASEAN member states to lead ASEAN out of this period of adversity, adding that if succeeded, it will stand as a testament to the lasting values and vitality of ASEAN Resilient and Dynamic Community.

According to PM Phuc, in addition to maintaining good control of the COVID-19 pandemic, ASEAN should promptly repair its damage, and revitalise the economy and resume our economic development.

The 36th ASEAN Summit will be an occasion for ASEAN member states to reassert our spirit of solidarity, our strong political will and commitment to rise above the adversities of the pandemic and keep forging ahead, he said.

The article said the Summit this time also saw the ASEAN Leaders’ Special Session on Women’s Empowerment in the Digital Age – which was to affirm the leaders commitment to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment and to enhance the role of women in building the ASEAN Community – being held for the first time.

The 36th summit was initially scheduled to be held on April 6 to 9 in Da Nang, but was rescheduled due to COVID-19.VNA



NA’s 10th session proposed to be held in October, November

NA Chairwoman Nguyễn Thị Kim Ngân at the closing session of the NA Standing Committee in Hà Nội on Tuesday. — VNA/ Photo 

HÀ NỘI — Secretary-General of the National Assembly (NA) and Head of the NA Office Nguyễn Hạnh Phúc has proposed the 10th session of the 14th legislature be held in both teleconference and in-person forms.

Addressing the second working day of the NA Standing Committee in Hà Nội on Tuesday, Phúc suggested the 10th session be divided into two stages.

The first stage would be held online from October 19-28 with lawmakers then meeting for another nine days from November 3-12.

The meeting will focus on discussing reports on socio-economic development, the State budget and four draft laws.

He said Q&A sessions should be organised over three days in the first stage to give agencies time to prepare a resolution regarding the sessions before submitting it to the NA for approval in the second stage.
However, the heads of several NA committees proposed holding Q&A sessions in the second stage.
Regarding the outcomes of the ninth session – the first to be held in both teleconference and in-person forms due to COVID-19 – Phúc said it was a success, with the entire agenda completed and 10 laws and 21 resolutions adopted.

International treaties

The NA Standing Committee gave opinions on a report collecting feedback on the draft Law on International Treaties, and the issuance of a decree on micro-insurance of socio-political organisations on its first working day on Monday.

Deputies agreed that the issuance of the Law on International Treaties will help continue institutionalising Party policies and guidelines on global integration, ensuring the enforcement of the 2013 Constitution, especially when Việt Nam has joined a number of new-generation free trade agreements.

Chairman of the NA’s Committee on External Relations Nguyễn Văn Giàu said the signing of international agreements by People’s Committees of communes and districts, especially those at border areas, has contributed to tightening friendship, co-operation and solidarity, ensuring security and order, and promoting people-to-people exchange over the years.

Chairman of the NA’s Ethnic Council Hà Ngọc Chiến suggested only authorities at the district level and higher should be allowed to sign international agreements while those in communes, villages and hamlets realise them.

About micro insurance, NA Vice Chairman Phùng Quốc Hiển asked the Government to review legal foundation for the pilot launch of micro-insurance and consider adding regulations for the amendment of the Law on Insurance Business. —


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NA Standing Committee approves reduction of environment tax on jet fuel

The National Assembly Standing Committee on July 14 passed a resolution on the new environment tax on jet fuel.

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At the National Assembly Standing Committee’s meeting (Photo: baotainguyenmoitruong)

Under the resolution, the environment tax on jet fuel will be 2,100 VND (0.091 USD) per litre as from August 1, 2020, and 3,000 VND per litre as from January 1 2021.

Earlier, when presenting a proposal on adjusting environment tax on jet fuel, Deputy Finance Minister Vu Thi Mai said aviation firms are facing a high risk of bankruptcy due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reduction of the tax is one of necessary measures to help those firms cope with the difficulties, she said.

The same day, the NA Standing Committee gave opinions on the proposal of including school textbooks in the list of commodities and services whose prices are controlled by the State.

The committee said as the matter has wide-spread impact and needs consultations of competent authorities, the Government should continue to work on the proposal.

The 46th meeting of the NA Standing Committee concluded on July 14./.VNA


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ASEAN officials mull building ASEAN recovery framework

An online inter-sectoral discussion on building a comprehensive recovery framework for ASEAN was held on July 14 under the chair of Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Dung, head of the SOM ASEAN Vietnam.

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Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Dung at the event (Photo: VNA)

Attending the event were ASEAN senior officials and three Deputy Secretary Generals in charge of the ASEAN Political-Security, Economic and Socio-Cultural Communities.

Speaking at the event, Dung said the recovery plan should ensure benefiting the public, businesses, localities and governments as all of them have been hit by COVID-19.

He called for the greatest efforts to help the people overcome difficulties in the spirit of a people-oriented and people-centred ASEAN Community.

Dung suggested that countries should enhance policy and measure coordination to support workers and ensure jobs, as well as offer social assistance to the unemployed and the elderly, facilitate children’s access to education and protect immigrant workers.

The Deputy FM urged listening to businesses’ aspirations, particularly those of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in hard-hit sectors such as tourism, aviation, services and garment. He proposed providing national and regional relief packages to boost intra-bloc trade and investment and ensure the supply chain.

For localities, he suggested improving their capacity of supplying medical and key public services to switch to new normal situation.

He also recommended ensuring the ASEAN Community’s common approach to recovery, increasing the sharing of experience and information about orientations to recovery, while maintaining epidemic control.

Participants pledged to work closely with the ASEAN Chair in 2020, ASEAN bodies and the Secretariat to complete the framework in an inclusive, scientific and effective manner.

The draft comprehensive recovery framework for ASEAN is scheduled to be submitted to regional leaders at the 37th ASEAN Summit in November 2020./.VNA


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