News Excerpt
Leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met via videoconference in April to deliberate on a strategy to combat and overcome the COVID-19 crisis, ensuring peaceful life of people and sustainable development of countries in the region.

Pre-Connect
ASEAN Plus Three
•    The ASEAN Plus Three (APT) cooperation process began in December 1997 with the convening of an Informal Summit among the Leaders of ASEAN and China, Japan and the ROK at the sidelines of the 2nd ASEAN Informal Summit in Malaysia.
•    The APT Summit was institutionalized in 1999 when the Leaders issued a Joint Statement on East Asia Cooperation at the 3rd APT Summit in Manila.
•    The APT framework has become an important element for fostering East Asian regionalism. The APT cooperation has broadened and deepened to cover a wide range of areas of political and security; transnational crime; trade and investment; finance; tourism; agriculture and forestry; energy; minerals; micro, small and medium-sized enterprises; science, technology and innovation.

Highlights
    The virtual summit was attended by the heads of state or government of the 10 ASEAN members and the ASEAN secretary-general. It was chaired by the Prime Minister of Vietnam.
    It was the first time in ASEAN history that innovative technology platform was used by the Leaders of the 10 ASEAN Member States and ASEAN’s Plus Three Partners, namely China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK), to discuss via video conference and reaffirm their shared commitment to cooperate in a concrete manner and coordinate an effective and timely response to the spread of COVID-19.
    The ministers endorsed several collective steps to fight the pandemic, including the:
○    Establishment of a COVID-19 ASEAN response fund
○    Sharing of information
○    Strategies and ways to ease the impact of the global health crisis on people and the economy

Conclusion
Strengthening the early warning system in the region for pandemics and other epidemic diseases as well as regular, timely, and transparent exchange of real-time information on the situation on the ground and measures taken by each country in combating COVID-19 would lead to effective management of the crisis. This should also include mitigating the far-reaching socio-economic impact caused by the pandemic, and preparing for a post-COVID recovery to restore confidence and the return to normalcy in the region.

PEPPER IT WITH
East Asia Summit, RCEP, BIMSTEC, SAARC conference on COVID-19