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Asia-Europe Meeting carries multilateral way forward toward shared recovery with connectivity

Leaders from Asia and Europe, in a Nov 25-26 summit, reaffirmed the importance of partnership and engagement for shared economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting, or ASEM13, was held via video conference by Cambodia, which served as this year’s chair.

Under the theme Strengthening Multilateralism for Shared Growth, leaders exchanged on a wide range of topics, including COVID-19 cooperation and post-pandemic socio-economic recovery, multilateralism and rule-based international order, climate change, connectivity and sustainable development.

“Leaders reaffirmed the importance of this partnership between Asia and Europe in strengthening dialogue and fostering action-oriented cooperation…to further advance a robust, inclusive and open multilateralism capable of addressing global and regional issues, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic,” said a chair’s statement adopted during the meeting on Nov 26.

According the statement, there are three pillars for Asia-Europe cooperation, including advancing multilateralism to address global and regional challenges, strengthening multilateralism for sustainable and inclusive economic recovery and growth, as well as enhancing multilateralism for social and cultural links.

The ASEM13 also adopted two other main outcome documents, including the Phnom Penh Statement on the Post-COVID-19 Socio-Economic Recovery, and The Way Forward on ASEM Connectivity.

Speaking at the ASEM13 joint press conference on Nov 26 evening, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said the three documents reflect the commitment, solidarities and joint efforts of all leaders of ASEM partners to reinforce multilateralism for a better, stronger, more inclusive, and more resilient future of Asia-Europe partnership.

“Leaders of ASEM partners remain committed to the effort toward building a harmonious, competitive, resilient, and sustainable ASEM community for the people of Asia and Europe as well as a dynamic future of Asia-Europe cooperation based on ASEM’s core principles of informality, flexibility, and mutual respect in the spirit of consensus and equal partnership,” said Hun Sen.

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said Europe and Asia must continue working together to tackle the global challenges, whether the persisting ones like climate change and security, or new ones like COVID-19.

Asia-Pacific is increasingly important for the EU, said Michel, noting the EU is a top investor and also a top development cooperation and trading partner in the region.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said the pandemic has highlighted the importance of having open and solid supply chains, in terms of access to vaccine and medical equipment as well as keeping factories running and workers employed.

“This is why it is so important to have a strong, mutual commitment, from the European Union and from Asia, to an open and stable trading environment,” said von der Leyen.

Noting the pandemic has increased the digitalization of the economy, Slovenia Prime Minister Janez Jansa, representing the rotating European Council presidency, said while using digitalization as an accelerator of economic growth, a safe digital space should also be created where the fundamental rights of users are protected.

The Phnom Penh Statement on the Post-COVID-19 Socio-Economic Recovery reaffirmed ASEM members’ commitment to reform, effectively embrace the digital economy, and harness technological transformation, said Jansa.

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