Vietnam leads ASEAN through COVID-19

Author: Bich T Tran, University of Antwerp COVID-19 is posing serious challenges to ASEAN in 2020. But Vietnam, as ASEAN chair, is trying to make the best of the situation and demonstrate leadership. As 2020 marks a mid-term review of the implementation of the ASEAN Community Building Blueprints 2015–25, Vietnam chose ‘Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN’ […]

Vietnam leads ASEAN through COVID-19

Author: Bich T Tran, University of Antwerp

COVID-19 is posing serious challenges to ASEAN in 2020. But Vietnam, as ASEAN chair, is trying to make the best of the situation and demonstrate leadership. As 2020 marks a mid-term review of the implementation of the ASEAN Community Building Blueprints 2015–25, Vietnam chose ‘Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN’ as the theme for its chairmanship.

The theme is supported by five priorities identified by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in his keynote speech on 6 January. The priorities include contributing to regional peace, security and stability by strengthening ASEAN’s solidarity and unity; intensifying regional connectivity through the use of digital and novel technologies; promoting ASEAN identities and shared values; strengthening global partnerships for peace and sustainable development; and improving ASEAN’s responsiveness and operational effectiveness.

Despite the goal of intensifying regional connectivity, the COVID-19 outbreak is disturbing global and regional supply chains. Vietnam had planned to organise more than 300 different conferences and activities during its term to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its ASEAN membership and to promote regional interactions. But the pandemic is causing numerous events to be postponed or even cancelled.

Many countries are in total or partial lockdown to flatten the transmission curve. Still, social distancing is increasing the use of telecommunication technologies used for teleworking and online teaching and learning. This trend, in line with the priority of promoting digital technologies, is enabling Vietnam to carry out its chair responsibilities by holding virtual meetings with ASEAN members and external partners.

Although division among ASEAN on how to respond to China in the South China Sea has undermined unity in recent years, Vietnam as chair of ASEAN is unifying member states in the fight against COVID-19. Since the beginning of the outbreak, Vietnam has worked closely with ASEAN members to help cope with the complex developments of the disease. On 14 February, Vietnam issued the Chairman’s Statement on ASEAN Collective Response to the Outbreak of COVID-19, which stressed the importance of ASEAN solidarity and promoted cooperation on multiple levels.

On 31 March, Hanoi held the ASEAN Coordinating Council Working Group on Public Health Emergenciesteleconference for member states to share information about their situations and the implementation of control measures.

At the ministerial level, Vietnam chaired two sessions of the ASEAN Coordinating Council on 20 March and 9 April, comprised of ASEAN foreign ministers, to discuss ways to strengthen collaboration between the group and its partners.

In the spirit of a ‘Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN’, Vietnam organised the Special ASEAN Summit on Coronavirus Disease 2019 on 14 April to urge member states to remain united and to act decisively in response to the pandemic. The leaders agreed to create a COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund and regional reserves of medical supplies.

Vietnam is also using the ASEAN chair to advance the organisation’s cooperation with countries around the world. At the ASEAN–China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on cooperation in responding to COVID-19 in Laos on 20 February, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi informed ASEAN of the situation in Wuhan and other parts of China. The bloc confirmed its support for China in combating the disease.

On 20 March, Vietnam chaired the ASEAN–EU ministerial teleconference on cooperation in fighting the pandemic. The two sides agreed to heighten information sharing, experience exchange, and policy consultation in diagnosis, treatment and vaccine production.

As chair of ASEAN, Vietnam was invited to the G20 emergency online summit on COVID-19 on 26 March. Besides sharing Vietnam’s COVID-19 control experience, Prime Minster Phuc stressed the importance of solidarity, cooperation and collaboration at global and regional levels. He added that fighting the pandemic should accompany facilitating trade and investment cooperation.

Vietnam also chaired the Special ASEAN+3 Summit on COVID-19 on 14 April. ASEAN members and their dialogue partners China, Japan and South Korea acknowledged the significance of ASEAN+3 cooperation and its existing mechanisms in addressing public health challenges.

Although the US–ASEAN Summit — initially scheduled for mid-March — was postponed, Vietnam held the ASEAN–United States High-Level Interagency Video Conference on Cooperation to Counter COVID-19, a senior officials-level meeting, on 1 April. The two sides reiterated the value of the ASEAN–US Strategic Partnership in facing the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic.

The success of this meeting led to the Special ASEAN–US Ministerial Videoconference on COVID-19 on 23 April with the participation of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh thanked the United States for its US$19 million for financial support to regional countries in combating the disease. Foreign Minister Pham also proposed further ASEAN–US public health cooperation by sharing information, experience and best practices.

Despite a rough start, Vietnam is demonstrating its leadership through quick responses and proactiveness in coordinating member states and external partners. Still, the accusations between the United States and China over the disease’s origin and their handling of the pandemic are putting Southeast Asia in complicated situation. As both powers are important partners of ASEAN, growing strategic competition between the two will again put ASEAN unity to the test in the post-COVID-19 era.

Bich T Tran is a PhD candidate at the University of Antwerp and a Researcher at the Global Affairs Research Center, Ryukoku University.

This article is part of an  on the novel coronavirus crisis and its impact.

Source : East Asia Forum More   

What's Your Reaction?


Next Article

Four Arrested and Three Injured as Thousands Strike at Taiwanese-owned Adidas Supplier in Vietnam

With few orders due to COVID-19, company offers financial support for workers only through the end of June.

Four Arrested and Three Injured as Thousands Strike at Taiwanese-owned Adidas Supplier in Vietnam

At least four people were detained and one other injured as thousands of workers in Vietnam’s Binh Duong province went on strike last week over their company’s plan to lay them off due to a downturn in business from the coronavirus pandemic.

The five-day strike began May 26 and ended Saturday, as workers from the Taiwanese-owned Chi Hung Company Ltd., a producer of shoes for Adidas, were told that the company could only support them through June.

The company, in Tan Uyen town, had been operating as normal even when Vietnam began social distancing, but the lack of new orders is forcing the company’s owners to reduce its workforce. The company plans to close its doors starting Monday, while still paying its workers through the end of the month.

More than 10,000 workers joined the demonstration at the company’s headquarters. Strikers told RFA that four workers were arrested by police, while a pregnant worker fainted after a stun gun was used on her.

RFA spoke to authorities and several workers during the course of the labor action.

Lt. Col. Tan Phu, head of the town’s police department, confirmed to RFA’s Vietnamese Service that the police were working on the issue, but abruptly hung up the phone when the reporter identified his association with Radio Free Asia.

A striking worker who requested anonymity to speak freely told RFA the reasons behind the strike, saying, “During COVID-19, other companies announced that if there were no orders, the workers would be allowed to stay home and each worker could receive support of 170,000 dong [U.S. $7.28].”

“But Chi Hung is only supporting us through June, even though they think we’ll have to stay home in July and August, because processing contracts are said to have been canceled,” the worker said.

“So now, we can only stay at home and we’re not receiving any announcements about when we can return to work at the company, and it’s hard to find another job,” the worker added.

The worker also said that the company has a trade union, but representatives of the union did not explain anything about worker protections during the epidemic.

Several relevant agencies are cooperating to moderate the strike, according to Nguyen Dinh Khanh, the vice chairman of the province’s labor union.

“Right now the head of the provincial labor union, the Labor Department and the Tan Uyen People’s Committee are joining together to solve this issue with Chi Hung,” said Nguyen.

“That company has a trade union so the relevant agencies will be working together to resolve this issue,” he said.

The company issued an announcement to the workers at the end of the workday on Thursday, saying, “The company is presently working under normal conditions, hoping that workers do not worry and continue to join in on production.”

“Those reporting to work must scan their employee badge and confirm their names on the attendance list to be paid salary,” the announcement said.

“Amid the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis, the company will do its best to acquire orders in the hopes of maintaining employment for all workers and staff,” it added.

The announcement was signed and stamped by the company’s general director, Liu Yu Feng, and trade union chairman Nguyen Thi Ngoc Ha.

On Saturday, a Chi Hung Company representative told state media that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it planned to temporarily suspend labor contracts with some of its employees in July and August. However, as the company has not yet announced in detail its circumstances and support policies, there was confusion and misunderstandings among the workers, which caused the strike.

At present, the company’s production remains stable and management will announce support policies for workers on June 20 at the latest, the representative said.

Following this announcement, the strike ended and workers returned to work.

Chi Hung Co. Ltd was founded in August 2000 and employs over 10 thousand workers.

Another strike in same province

Meanwhile on Monday, Vietnam’s state media reported that 100 workers at a different Taiwanese-owned company in the same province began their unrelated strike, over the company failing to pay severance after laying them off.

Workers for the G.R.A. Company said they want to get refunds for the payments they made into an unemployment insurance fund, and they demanded severance and other related payments in compensation for layoffs.

A representative of police at the My Phuoc Industrial Park police station confirmed to state media that G.R.A.’s management explained in an announcement to laborers that the company would solve all issues with benefits for the workers, but they did not agree, resulting in the strike.

Most of the demonstrators joining the strike on Monday were previously laid off by G.R.A. according to Dang Tan Dat from the Binh Duong labor union.

They returned to the company Monday demanding unemployment insurance payments and severance, Dang said.

The labor union is working with the company to find a solution, he said.

Binh Duong province, considered the “gateway to Ho Chi Minh City” is home to many industrial parks and industrial clusters that manufacture goods for global companies.

Foreign investors from 64 countries and territories set up shop in Binh Duong, with 304 projects totaling U.S. $5.7 billion, Vietnam’s ministry of planning and investment reported in October 2019.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Eugene Whong

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.