VGP – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged that the U.S. will provide additional US$500,000 to COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund while he was addressing the ASEAN-U.S. Ministerial Meeting held virtually on Wednesday.
Earlier, the U.S. contributed US$160 million to the fund which was established last March to address both the immediate needs and long-term goals of the ASEAN member states arising from the pandemic.
Blinken affirmed President Joe Biden’s Administration commits to continue pushing for multilateral cooperation in COVID-19 response and expanding production capacity to ensure sufficient supply of safe vaccines.
On behalf of ASEAN, Lao’s Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith, who is co-coordinator of the ASEAN-U.S. relations, welcomed the U.S.’ expression to fortify cooperation with ASEAN and the region, uphold multilateral cooperation, and support ASEAN countries to further enhance their health care capacity.
Kommasith spoke highly of the U.S.’ move to temporarily lift patent protections on Coronavirus vaccines.
Foreign ministers to the meeting welcomed positive advancements in the ASEAN-U.S. relations despite negative impacts posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. has emerged to become the second largest trade partner of ASEAN and one of the top investors in ASEAN with US$34.7 billion.
ASEAN and the U.S. agreed to continue placing high priority on containing COVID-19 and fostering sustainable recovery, with a focus on strengthening cooperation in trade, investment, digital transformation, and energy.
The bloc expects the U.S. would continue assistance in research, development, production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines while the U.S. suggested the sides enhance cooperation in energy, transport, women empowerment , and climate change adaption among others, in a bid to contribute to sustainable recovery.
Given complicated developments and newly emerged challenges in the region and the world, both sides affirmed that they work closely together to contribute to peace, security, and stability in the region, including maritime security and safety in the East Sea.
The U.S. reiterated support for ASEAN’s principled positions on the East Sea issue and welcomed ASEAN’s greater role in accelerating cooperation, dialogue and trust building in the region, and in ensuring full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), and conclusion of an effective and efficient Code of Conduct in the East Sea in line with the 1982 UN Convention on the Law off the Sea, in which rights and legitimate interests of relevant parties are respected.
Blinken welcomed ASEAN’s role and efforts to step up dialogue and reconciliation in as well as support for Myanmar in order to seek solutions to stabilize the situation in Myanmar, voicing support for ASEAN to successfully realize the five-point consensus reached by the bloc’s leaders at their summit on April 24, 2021./.