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HANOI -- Economic ministers of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China, Japan and South Korea on Thursday reaffirmed the importance of open markets amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for efforts against the epidemic's adverse impact.
The economic ministers held an online meeting on Thursday, chaired by Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh, and adopted the ASEAN Plus Three Economic Ministers' Joint Statement on Mitigating the Economic Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
In the joint statement, the ministers acknowledged that there is an "urgent need" for intensified and concerted efforts to address the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their people, including "economic disruptions that have affected regional supply chains, the financial markets and human capital."
The ministers reaffirmed the importance of keeping the markets open for trade and investment to strengthen the resiliency and sustainability of regional supply chains and maintain necessary flow of goods and services.
They agreed to refrain from taking unnecessary measures that may affect the smooth flow of essential goods such as food, commodities, medicines and medical supplies in the region, and to continue to address non-tariff barriers, especially those impeding the smooth flow of goods and services.
They encourage close coordination, especially among the customs agencies, to continue promoting trade facilitation measures, especially at land borders, according to the statement.
Noting the importance of facilitating essential movement of business people across borders, the ministers encourage their governments to establish relevant guidelines that would allow essential cross-border travel without undermining anti-epidemic efforts.
Aerial photo taken on March 18, 2020 shows the container dock of Yangshan Port in Shanghai, east China. (Xinhua)
According to the statement, the ministers agree to support businesses, particularly the micro, small and medium enterprises and the vulnerable economic sectors, and welcome knowledge sharing and exchanges of best practices on policies and programs to manage the pandemic's adverse effects on economic activities.
They also welcome efforts to effectively utilize the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve to overcome possible food shortages and help ensure food security in the region during emergencies, said the statement.
The ministers agree to identify and pursue initiatives to strengthen joint efforts toward post-pandemic recovery in the region, and to jointly restore economic growth by enhancing regional trade and economic cooperation through a series of measures, including addressing trade barriers, promoting trade and investment, and expanding fields of cooperation.
They also remain committed to the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the 10 ASEAN member states and their six FTA partners -- China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India, in 2020, according to the statement.
ASEAN, which was founded in 1967, groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.