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Spotlight: RCEP, post-pandemic recovery top on agenda of 37th ASEAN Summit: Cambodian scholars

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) — Cambodian academics said here on Thursday that the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement and the post-COVID-19 recovery would be top on the agenda of the ongoing 37th summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and related meetings.

The virtual summit kicked off on Thursday and will last until Sunday. Vietnam holds the summit’s rotating chairmanship this year.

Chheang Vannarith, president of the Phnom Penh-based Asian Vision Institute, said the priorities at the summit would be the signing of the RCEP agreement, the adoption of the ASEAN comprehensive recovery framework, and the establishment of regional stockpiles of medical supplies.

Other issues to be discussed included the fast-changing regional security and geopolitical landscape, he said, adding that the regional implications of the new leadership in the United States would draw attention as well.

“RCEP is going to be the largest trading bloc in the world, and the signing of this agreement will be another milestone in regional integration and connectivity,” he told Xinhua. “Deepened economic interdependence contributes to sustaining regional peace, security, stability and prosperity.”

“I believe that the leaders will continue to take precautionary measures to curb the spread of the (COVID-19) pandemic, share information, coordinate regional responses, deepen regional integration and connectivity, strengthen regional supply chains, and explore safe travel bubbles within the region,” he added.

Pou Sothirak, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said he believed the summit agenda would also cover the mid-term review of the implementation of blueprints for the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, the Hanoi Declaration on a post-2025 ASEAN Vision, and the review of the implementation of the ASEAN Charter, among others.

He said the massive scale of the COVID-19 outbreak has brought about the “new normal” that overwhelms individual lives, countries and the whole world.

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