I. Opening Remark
A special summit of the ASEAN Plus Three on COVID-19 was held via video link on April 14, 2020. The video conference was convened by Vietnam, the current chair of ASEAN, with the attendance of the leaders of ASEAN+3, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Secretary General of ASEAN Lim Jock Hoi. Premier Li Keqiang attended the conference and made an important speech in Beijing.
Premier Li Keqiang said, the current epidemic is spreading worldwide. Viruses are a common enemy of mankind, and no country can be alone. At the recent Extraordinary G20 Leaders' Summit, President Xi Jinping highlighted the imperative for the international community to strengthen confidence, act in unity and make a collective response.The APT countries should be aware that we are in a community with a shared future. We must act with a greater sense of common purpose and stronger resolve. We must make more determined efforts and work together in closer coordination and cooperation. We need to send a message of partnership, solidarity and mutual assistance among East Asian countries to boost confidence in our region and beyond. We must secure an early victory against COVID-19 in East Asia.
Premier Li Keqiang put forward China's proposals on APT cooperation in fighting the outbreak.
First, APT countries need to enhance all-round cooperation against the epidemic and build up public health capacity.We should strengthen coordination and collaboration to create greater synergy of our responses which is essential for curtailing the spread of infection.China will provide support and assistance to ASEAN countries to the best of our capability as grant assistance and via commercial channels. We should also support WHO in leading a global response to the outbreak.
Second, we need to revitalize economic growth and deepen regional economic integration. On this basis, we should further ease tariffs, eliminate barriers, boost the flow of trade and investment, and keep markets open to each other. We should consider opening a "fast-track lane" for essential personnel on urgent visits. We need to conduct joint research on enhancing the industrial and supply chains among APT countries. We also need to work toward signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement within the agreed time-frame.
Third, we need to intensify policy coordination to weather all kinds of risks and challenges. We should remain confident about our ability to overcome the financial risks and challenges brought by COVID-19, and serve as an anchor of stability for the region.We should intensify collaboration to ensure regional grain supply and market security.
All parties at the conference exchanged in-depth views on the cooperation of East Asian countries to fight against the epidemic and maintain regional economic development. The meeting reached an important consensus and adopted a joint statement, which released ASEAN, China, Japan and ROK's strong confidence to prevent and control the epidemic and stabilize the regional economy and a positive signal for the APT countries to further deepen and expand their cooperation in the joint epidemic.
Next, I will share my understanding about the conference with the media friends.
First, the meeting demonstrated the tradition of mutual assistance in times of difficulties among East Asian countries, highlighting the role of ATP as the main channel for East Asian cooperation. This was evidenced by our experiences in multiple crises and an embodiment of our Asian spirit. In fact, the ASEAN Plus Three (APT) cooperation mechanism was set up in response to the Asian financial crisis in late 1990s and then emerged even stronger from the international financial crisis in 2008. Through mutual help under this mechanism, we APT countries also stood strong against SARS, the highly pathogenic avian influenza and the Indian Ocean tsunami. Our tremendous courage and close collaboration have safeguarded the development and stability of our region.
After the outbreak of COVID-19, the mutual assistance and support of the East Asian governments, the people, and the media are in stark contrast to the “national priority” approach adopted by some country, setting a model for global cooperation in the fight against epidemic.
The APT mechanism responded quickly and took the lead in holding a special video conference for senior health development officials and a conference of health ministers to share information and actively explore strengthening regional public health cooperation. As an important member of the APT cooperation, China has lived up to its duties as a responsible country, and proposed to hold the ASEAN-China Special Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on COVID-19 on February 20 and the China-Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers' Special Video Conference on COVID-19 on March 20, where leaders reached important consensus on strengthening regional cooperation.
At this meeting, Premier Li expressed sincere gratitude to the fellow ATP countries that provided valuable assistance to China in the early difficult stage of China’s anti-epidemic efforts. Leaders of the Lao PDR, Cambodia, Malaysia thanked China for their support and assistance in the fight against the epidemic. The Prime Minister of Malaysia said affectionately that "China has stood with us from the beginning". China further announced that it will continue to provide urgently needed medical supplies to ASEAN countries through free assistance and commercial channels. "A friend in need is a friend indeed", the APT countries' mutual help in the difficult situation has brought each other closer, and will help boost the East Asian cooperation. We are confident that the APT mechanism will surely act as the main platform for region cooperation against the pandemic.
Second, the meeting provided a strong political momentum and guide for APT countries to strengthen solidarity and overcome difficulties. The summit is the first leaders’ meeting that covers the East Asia region in response to COVID-19, as well as the first special meeting among APT leaders since the mechanism was born, and to make it even more special, it is conducted through the whole new format as a videoconference. This, undoubtedly marks a milestone in the history of APT cooperation. It demonstrates the shared will of regional countries to overcome difficulties, protect people’s lives and strive for the early victory through cooperation. It also shows the great resolve of regional countries to jointly protect public health security of the region and beyond. At this meeting, leaders of APT countries exchanged in-depth views on the issues of the impacts of the pandemic on our region, on how to promote regional efforts on prevention and control, on how to upgrade the public health cooperation in East Asia, on how strengthen macro-policy coordination, and enhance stability of the regional industrial and supply chain. The meeting has sent a positive signal to the international community on regional solidarity at the difficult times. It embodies the good wishes of all countries to overcome the pandemic as soon as possible and improve the health and well-being of the people of all countries.
China's pandemic prevention and control has achieved remarkable results, which have been highly praised by the international community. Premier Li Keqiang shared the "China Solution" and "Chinese Experience" for the overall pandemic prevention and control and economic and social development, and put forward the following important initiatives on East Asia's anti-pandemic cooperation : First, strengthening coordination and collaboration among the health, customs, transportation and immigration authorities of APT countries and explore a liaison mechanism for smooth and regular communication, thus creating greater synergy of our responses which is essential for curtailing the spread of infection. Second, sharing diagnostic and treatment experience, research data and information, and conducting joint research and development of drugs and vaccines. And coordinating the production, demand and supply of medical supplies, and facilitating each other's purchase of these supplies on a commercial basis. Third, in view of both current and longer-term needs, exploring establishment of an APT reserve on essential medical supplies to make our response faster and emergency supplies more readily available. The above-mentioned initiatives provide a clear path for East Asian countries to enhance all-round cooperation against the pandemic, which will greatly boost the practical cooperation among APT countries especially in the public health area. Emergency response to major disasters in regional countries will also be significantly enhanced, thus further cementing the foundation of an East Asian community.
Third, the meeting provided a strong momentum of APT countries to strengthen coordination and revitalize regional economy. The pandemic is exerting a comprehensive impact on global production, including in the East Asia market. The world economy is facing huge downward pressure. The "black swan" and "gray rhino" events that may be triggered by the pandemic contain unpredictable risks and challenges. As close neighbors, we, the APT countries have personnel exchanges and highly connected economies, and have developed close a full-fledged industrial chain and a mutually complementary specialization structure. It is our top priorities to jointly deal with the impact of the pandemic, and stabilize the regional economy, preventing derivative risks.
China supports APT in strengthening coordination and playing an active role to stabilize the regional economy. At this meeting, with focus on the regional economic cooperation after the pandemic, China proposed and advocated the following: First, for stable industrial and supply chains in the region, making a "fast-track lane" available to essential personnel on urgent visits to maintain necessary flows of people and goods. We need to work toward signing the RCEP agreement this year as planned, pushing regional economic integration to higher levels; Second, intensifying financial policy coordination to weather all kinds of risks and challenges. We need to expand the use of local currencies in regional trade and investment and improve the currency-swap network. Mechanisms such as the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization (CMIM) and the APT Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) need to be fully leveraged to enhance crisis preparedness. The attending leaders have warmly welcomed these initiatives proposed by Premier Li. All parties agreed to join hands and work towards reducing the impact on our economy and society, strengthen macro-policy coordination, ensure the stability of industrial and supply chains in our region,and resist potential financial risks. The consensus reached at the meeting makes clear about both the goal and route to revitalize regional economy after the pandemic, which will greatly boost market confidence and provide strong momentum to economic growth in our region, and contribute to the development of East Asia.
East Asian cooperation will only emerge even stronger out of the pandemic. I have full confidence in the joint endeavors of APT countries and in our final win.
II. Q&A Session
Metro TV:How effective has the cooperation been among ASEAN Plus Three countries in fighting COVID-19? What role does the APT cooperation play in enhancing the public health cooperation of this region? Indonesia suggested the formation of the ASEAN Plus Three (Japan, Korea, China) Task Force -- how do you think of that?
A?China, Japan, ROK and ASEAN Member States (AMS) are close neighbors in Asia, and have fine tradition of helping each other in times of difficulties. We have stood side by side to overcome a series of crises in the past, serving as the mainstay of regional stability and development. In facing of the COVID-19 pandemic, APT countries have responded immediately and supported each other through both bilateral and multilateral channels.
At the bilateral level, after the outbreak of COVID-19 in China, Japan, ROK and AMS strongly supported China in fighting the disease with donations from governments and civil societies. The Chinese government and people take their great kindness to our hearts. While the disease began to hit hard in Japan, ROK and AMS, China expressed moral support at the earliest time possible, shared experience and best practices in epidemic prevention and control, diagnosis and treatment, and provided them with much needed medical supplies and even sent medical teams, despite the big pressure of epidemic control at home.
At the multilateral level, the Special Video Conference of APT Senior Officials on Health and Development and the Special Video Conference of APT Health Ministers on Covid-19 response cooperation were convened. More importantly, our leaders reached important consensus at the Special APT Summit on 14 April on staying united in the fight, mitigating potential risks and safeguarding regional economic growth. The Summit sent a strong message that the close-knit community with a shared future in East Asia is resolved to turn the ride in solidarity and cooperation.
While the pandemic is still raging across the globe, cooperation among APT countries has enhanced the preparedness and response of regional countries, protected people’s lives and upheld regional development and stability. It has also set a fine example to the rest of the world when global cooperation is in more urgent need than ever.
Public health is an important part of APT cooperation. Mature mechanisms such as Ministerial and Senior Officials’ Meetings were established, in addition to personnel training and experience sharing programs. Regional countries have been coordinating efforts under these frameworks in response to the public health emergency. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made regional cooperation on public health more necessary and urgent. The Special APT Video Summit that took place in such a context will be a milestone for APT cooperation. Leaders’ consensus will inject strong impetus to cooperation in public health and enhance emergency response capacity of regional countries in addressing severe disasters, and with this, contributing to a stronger East Asian Community.
As an important member of APT mechanism and a major country of our region, China has been a strong advocate and productive participant of APT’s collective response.China supports ASEAN's central position, supports enhancing regional public health security, attaches great importance to Indonesia's specific proposals, and is seriously studying on the proposals.
Phoenix TV: As China and ASEAN are fighting the coronavirus side by side, what is your further understanding and feeling on community of shared future for mankind?
A: China and ASEAN, as close neighbors, have been going through the test for the past months. The even closer friendly bonds between our peoples will further energize the building of a closer China-ASEAN community with a shared future.
China and ASEAN have been leading the fight against COVID-19. China has accumulated much experience in this fight that other countries may find helpful. China's performance, greatly encouraging indeed, will significantly boost the confidence of other countries to fight and win. China's efforts have not only safeguarded the health and safety of the Chinese people, but also contributed greatly to global public health security.Epidemic prevention and control in ASEAN Member States (AMS) are also remarkable. The World Health Organization has highly commended the efforts of ASEAN countries. Some AMS have adopted economic stimulus policies to minimize the negative impact of the epidemic.
China and ASEAN conducted exemplary international cooperation in fighting COVID-19. China has provided ASEAN and the rest of the international community with timely updates on the epidemic in a spirit of openness and transparency.
As close neighbors, ASEAN Members States rendered China timely and strong material and moral support. The Heads of State/Government or Foreign Ministers of all AMS extended to the Chinese government and people their sympathy, support and solidarity through phone calls, messages and visits. Recently we have held China-ASEAN Special Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the China-Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers' Special Video Conference and Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit on COVID-19, where leaders reached important consensus on strengthening regional cooperation.
China and ASEAN spearhead the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. In 2013, President Xi Jinping proposed to build a closely-knit China-ASEAN community with a shared future during his visit to Indonesia. Over the years, our unremitting efforts have ushered China-ASEAN relations into a new stage of all-round development.The joint fight against COVID-19 has made China and ASEAN more aware of the importance and urgency of building a community with a shared future. The awareness itself will be a strong push to the growth of the ever-promising China-ASEAN relations.
Finally, I want to say, "Humanity has only one earth, and all countries live together in one world." As for building a community with a shared future for mankind, China has taken active international cooperation in epidemic prevention and control. Viruses are a common enemy of humanity. Facing the common challenges of global public health security, building a community with a shared future for mankind has become the common goal and consensus of the people around the world. Building a community with a shared future for mankind was first advocated in China but belongs to the world, conforming to history and basing itself on reality and facing the future. All parties should uphold the principle of consultation, contribution and Shared Benefits, consolidate ideas and consensus, set common goals, consolidate common interests, shoulder common responsibilities, and implement common actions, to jointly promote the health and well-being of people around the world.
Bloomberg: How much damage in terms of investment and trade between China and ASEAN has been caused by the coronavirus?
A: China and ASEAN have close economic ties and highly integrated industrial chains and supply chains. Despite the severe impact of the epidemic, trade and investment between the two sides are still growing at a remarkable pace. According to statistics released by Chinese General Administration of Customs on Tuesday, ASEAN-China merchandise trade in the first quarter of this year added up to 142.4 billion US dollars. By this number, ASEAN replaced the European Union to become China's largest trading partner. The trade is up 3.9% percent year-on-year, which is among the highest increase of China’s foreign trade in the first quarter.
China’s exports is up by 0.4%, and imports up by 8.4%. The exports reduced to large extent compared to Q1 of last year, which demonstrates the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to trade.
We are confident that China and ASEAN will jointly overcome the adverse impact of the epidemic through enhanced cooperation and preserve steady relations of bilateral trade and investment. As the majority of Chinese enterprises and factories have resumed production, ASEAN members will be the first to feel the positive spillover effects of China's economic revival.
Shenzhen TV: Could you share with us how is pandemic prevention and control going in China and what efforts China has made to promote international anti-pandemic cooperation?
A: In facing the major challenge by COVID-19, the Chinese people, from the top leadership to grassroots, have united as one under the strong leadership of President Xi Jinping. China has launched a massive and nation-wide response and taken the most comprehensive aggressive prevention and control measures. With the joint efforts of our government and public, China has effectively contained domestically transmitted cases and put things largely under control. As of April 15th, there are 1107 remaining cases in China’s mainland, and nearly 80,000 people have been cured and discharged from hospital. With 3342 dead among the total confirmed cases of 82341, China has managed to lift the cure rate to 94%. In HongKong, Macao and Taiwan, the number of the total confirmed cases is 1437 with 10 dead. Just as the country’s top respiratory expert Dr. Zhong Nanshan put it, “China has entered a new stage where the outbreak is basically brought under control and China is unlikely to suffer from another outbreak.
The progress once again demonstrates the great strengths of the CPC leadership and the effectiveness of our prevention and control measures. WHO and over 120 countries including the ASEAN countries, Japan and ROK, as well as the ASEAN Secretariat and other international organizations have expressed their admiration and support to China’s fight against the COVID-19. While making all efforts to ensure prevention and containment of the pandemic, China also takes measures to resume work and production and bring socioeconomic activities back on track, which in turn provides strong material support to the international cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19.
Guided by the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, China has overcome difficulties and provided various kinds of support and assistance to the international community within its capacity while continuing to do a good job in pandemic control at home.
The Chinese leaders attach great importance to international cooperation in prevention and control and call for comprehensive, inter-government and collective response under international framework. President Xi Jinping attended the Extraordinary G20 Leaders’ Summit via video where he delivered important messages. President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang received Cambodian Prime Minister, Mongolian President, Pakistan President and Director-General of the WHO in Beijing and had telephone conversations with nearly 30 heads of states, governments or international organizations in the past two months. President Xi sent messages of sympathy to the countries most-hit by COVID-19 including ROK, Iran and Italy, and responded to the letter of WHO Director-General.
So far, the Chinese government has provided or is providing supplies to 127 countries and 4 international organizations, including surgical masks, protective gears and testing reagents. According to statistics from China’s customs, from March 1 to April 4, China exported RMB 10.2 billion worth of anti-epidemic supplies, including 3.86 billion masks, 37.52 million protective gears, 2.41 million infrared thermometers, 16,000 ventilators, 2.84 million testing kits and 8.41 million protective goggles. Localities, enterprises and civil groups in China also donated medical supplies to more than 100 countries, regions and international organizations.
Some countries asked China through diplomatic channels for assisting commercial procurement, and exporters were duly recommended. China’s Ministry of Commerce published a list of manufacturers certified by regulatory authorities and facilitated the customs clearance of supplies in compliance with regulations.
Acting with openness, transparency and a high sense of responsibility, the Chinese government has been sharing information in a timely manner, enhancing international cooperation on diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccine development. China donated $20 million to the WHO, sent 14 medical teams to 12 countries and held over 80 video conferences with experts from more than 150 countries and international organizations to share first-hand treatment experience and health instructions with the local communities in other countries.
Here I would like to emphasize Chinese assistance to ASEAN. The Chinese Government dispatched 4 medical teams (to Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Myanmar and the Philippines) and provided a large number of medical supplies, including face masks, goggles, testing kits, protective clothing and ventilators to the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and other ASEAN Member States. The Chinese Government’s donation to the ASEAN Secretariat and relevant ASEAN entities has already arrived in Jakarta and is currently going through necessary formalities.
Actions speak louder than words. China will continue to take concrete actions as a responsible major country, and work with others to defeat the COVID-19 outbreak and promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
Jakara Post: I want to know more details about the ASEAN COVID-19 response fund, which China has said it supports and would provide necessary support through the ASEAN-China Cooperation Fund and APT Cooperation Fund. What assistance China will be providing to the region?
A?China is fully aware of the difficulties and challenges faced by ASEAN member states in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. And we have been providing support and assistance to ASEAN countries through bilateral and multilateral channels, including large quantities of medical supplies, technical assistance and financial support. At the APT Special Summit on COVID-19 held two days ago, Premier Li Keqiang clearly stated that China supports ASEAN’s proposal in setting up a COVID-19 ASEAN response fund and will provide necessary support through the ASEAN-China Cooperation Fund (ACCF) and APT Cooperation Fund. According to ASEAN, the fund could be used to procure necessary medical supplies to help ASEAN member states in detection and prevention of COVID-19 transmission and protecting the health of health workers and the wider population. Relevant countries are now discussing the detailed framework of such a fund. In addition, China will earmark US$10 million in its Poverty Reduction and Regional Cooperation Fund under the ADB to support outbreak control programs in the region. China will stand together with regional countries in closer cooperation and coordination to navigate through the current tough times.
People’s Daily: The COVID-19 outbreak has shocked trade and investment in East Asia. What measures will China take to ease the impacts?
A: The COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging globally and putting the global economy under severe downward pressure. The global challenges caused by the pandemic demand our coordinated and collective response. China will continue to strengthen communication and cooperation with all parties in East Asia and provide assistance to neighboring countries on pandemic prevention and control within our capacity. China is also committed to strengthening the synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and relevant regional development initiatives. These joint efforts will inject new impetus into the global fight against the pandemic and the global economic recovery. China will focus its efforts on the following:
First, to strengthen communication and coordination among trading partners, create an open and transparent regional trading environment and maintain the stability of regional industrial and supply chains. China will keep a close contact with other countries on the pandemic control and trade-related measures, refrain from taking unnecessary restrictions and promote smooth operation of industrial and supply chains in the region.
Second, to further develop free trade areas with neighboring countries for greater regional economic integration. China will fully implement the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement and its upgrading protocol by increasing their utilization by domestic and foreign enterprises. We will actively work with other parties towards the signing of RCEP this year, which will be a big step to enhance the clustering advantage of regional industrial chain.
Third, to make the most of trade and investment promotion platforms that facilitate cooperation between chambers of commerce and enterprises both at home and abroad. China is making full preparation for the third China International Import Expo, the 17th China-ASEAN Expo, among others. We will further improve the platforms to unleash greater potential of trade and investment. In light of the latest developments of COVID-19, China decided the 127th China Import and Export Fair (also called Canton fair) will be held online from mid- to late June, as a new way of maximizing business opportunities at this special period of time.
Fourth, to expand cooperation in emerging areas such as the digital economy. As 2020 is the year of China-ASEAN digital economic cooperation, China will deepen cooperation with ASEAN, Japan and ROK in 5G, Internet of things, artificial intelligence, digital manufacturing and other emerging technologies to develop cross-border e-commerce in our region. These efforts will expand our converging interests and bring about more dividend of the regional industrial chain.
Reuters: The pandemic has created economic difficulties in many countries. What impact will the pandemic have on the BRI projects in ASEAN countries?
The epidemic has affected all countries and regions around the world. The related projects of the “Belt and Road” will inevitably be affected, but these challenges are periodic and temporary. We are taking various measures to steadily move ahead projects, gradually resuming work and production with all necessary measures in place for epidemic control and prevention. In fact, many BRI projects are highly localized. China only provides some technical personnel for support. The majority of employees are locally hired which helps a lot with local employment. So I believe the impact on BRI projects will be limited.
According to the latest statistics of China’s Customs, in the first quarter of this year, China's trade with countries along the Belt and Road totaled 2.07 trillion yuan accounting for more than 30% of the total with a year-on-year growth of 3.2%, which is 9.6% higher than China’s foreign trade growth rate. This demonstrates strong resilience of trade connectivity under BRI.
While we are taking measures to control the epidemic, we should ensure orderly flow of essential goods and people, maintain stability of production and supply chain and minimize the adverse impacts on economic and social development. For instance, we can consider opening a “fast-track lane” for essential and urgent personnel visits in the areas of commerce, logistics, production and technological services. We hope and believe that when the situation in the region turns for the better, the exchange of people and goods between China and ASEAN will soon recover and return to a normal or even higher level, injecting strong impetus to regional growth and connectivity.