People walk out of the venue of the 18th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, on September 13, 2021. (XINHUA)
The leaders of China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed on October 26 to deepen cooperation to help the region recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, including the early implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement.
In a joint statement issued following the 24th ASEAN-China Summit held online, China agreed to support the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and its Implementation Plan, which will guide both sides in deepening their cooperation in various fields, including public health, social security, economic integration, digital transformation, and sustainable development.
ASEAN lauded China for its active cooperation in implementing key priorities identified in the framework, such as training health executives and professionals in health emergency response, supporting the COVID-19 ASEAN response fund, and expanding cooperation on COVID-19 vaccines.
An airport worker transports packages of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine at Phnom Penh International Airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on October 14, 2021. (XINHUA)
Both sides stressed the importance of economic integration between China and ASEAN to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and speed up the region's economic recovery.
The leaders agreed to promote the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement and explore broader mutual opening up in other areas under the free trade agreement, "including by creating more trade opportunities in the digital economy and fostering new sources of growth and cooperation."
They also stressed the need to strengthen cooperation to enhance the connectivity and resilience of supply chains in the region by exploring "the development of economic corridors, as well as economic, trade, and industrial parks."
Aerial photo taken on January 3, 2020 shows vehicles waiting to pass the port of the Friendship Pass on the China-Vietnam border in Pingxiang, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (XINHUA)
In another joint statement, ASEAN and China agreed to expand cooperation to promote green and sustainable development in the region.
ASEAN on October 26 kick-started its 38th and 39th summits under the chairmanship of Brunei via virtual conference, with fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and promoting economic recovery high on the agenda.
Aside from Brunei, ASEAN also includes Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.