Ministers from ASEAN and China Commit to Fighting COVID-19 Impacts on Trade, Economy
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The ASEAN Economic Ministers and the Minister of Commerce of China issued a joint statement on combatting the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring continued cross-border trade in the region.

The statement commits ASEAN and China to sharing anti-pandemic information, reaffirms the importance of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement to boosting trade and investment, and underscores that “any emergency trade measures deemed necessary to tackle COVID-19 shall be targeted, proportionate, transparent and temporary”.

Economic Ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China’s Minister of Commerce have issued a joint statement on combating COVID-19. The statement recognizes efforts made in response to COVID-19 and affirms the ministers’ commitment to working together to combat the pandemic and its impacts on trade and the economy in the region.

Issued on 29 May 2020, the 14-paragraph statement acknowledges that the global spread of the novel coronavirus requires synchronized responses at both regional and global levels. Thus, ASEAN and China are partnering to enhance coordination.

The statement commits ASEAN and China to sharing “anti-pandemic information,” knowledge, experiences, and best practices in a prompt, efficient, and regular manner. It further commits the countries to facilitating production of and access to medicines and vaccines for COVID-19. These actions, the statement notes, serve to mitigate the negative impacts on healthcare, manufacturing, trade, investment, and tourism.

On trade, the ministers reaffirm the importance of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) to boosting trade and investment and ensuring stable, inclusive growth in the region. According to ASEAN data, bilateral trade more than doubled between 2010 and 2019, growing from USD 235.5 billion in 2010 to USD 497 billion in 2019. Based on China’s statistics, its bilateral trade with ASEAN is following similar trends, expanding from USD 292.8 billion in 2010 to USD 641.5 billion in 2019. The statement notes that trade relations will be critical to maintaining confidence in the regional economy and that trade presents a significant opportunity for the region’s economic recovery from the effects of COVID-19.

The ministers also recognize that implementation of the ACFTA is vital to “promoting the free flow of goods and services, enhancing two-way investment,” and maintaining supply chains’ integrity. Smooth cross-border flow of food, agricultural products, commodities, medicines and medical supplies, and essential goods and services is specifically called out in the statement. Accordingly, the statement recognizes possibilities around improved market access through, inter alia, non-tariff measures and e-commerce.

The statement further underscores that “any emergency trade measures deemed necessary to tackle COVID-19 shall be targeted, proportionate, transparent and temporary.” Such measures, the statement emphasizes, shall not create unnecessary barriers to trade, and “shall take into account the standards and recommendations of the World Customs Organization (WCO) and be consistent with the rights and obligations of each Party under the World Trade Organization (WTO) covered agreements.”

The statement closes by reiterating the countries’ commitment to a free, open, transparent, non-discriminatory, predictable, and stable trade and investment environment. This environment, the statement highlights, will create synergies and opportunities for post-crisis revitalization, thereby contributing to the prosperity and stability of the global economy. [ASEAN-China Economic Ministers’ Joint Statement on Combating the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) and Enhancing ACFTA Cooperation]

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