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Post-pandemic recovery, multilateralism, connectivity top agenda at 13th ASEM Summit

Post-pandemic recovery, multilateralism, connectivity top agenda at 13th ASEM Summit
Aerial photo taken on March 11, 2021 shows the eighth Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River, connecting Kampong Cham province and Tboung Khmum province in southeastern Cambodia. (Shanghai Construction Group/Handout via Xinhua)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Post-COVID-19 socio-economic recovery, multilateralism and connectivity are expected to be high on the agenda for the 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit (ASEM13), which is due to be held via video link on Nov. 25 to 26, Cambodian experts said on Wednesday.

The summit will be chaired by Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen and participated by the heads of state/government and high-level representatives of 51 ASEM countries from Asia and Europe, the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission, and the Secretary-General of ASEAN.

Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the pandemic and multilateralism will remain the top agenda during the ASEM13, adding that fighting against the disease requires joint efforts from all countries.

“Regional and global growth, sustainable development and prosperity can’t be achieved by unilateralism and protectionism, so multilateralism is very important,” he told Xinhua. “It’s hoped that the ASEM13 will reinforce Asia-Europe partnership to ensure that multilateralism can bring about global growth that is not only sustainable but can also be shared.”

Commenting on China’s engagement with ASEM countries, Phea said as a global great power and the world’s second-largest economy, China’s presence at the ASEM13 is very important and will greatly contribute to the success of the summit.

“Beyond the Asia and Europe continents, China has played a crucial role in the establishment of a new multi-polar world, in promoting multilateralism and win-win cooperation for inclusive and sustainable growth and development, and in the fight against COVID-19,” he said.

Mey Kalyan, chairman of the Cambodia Development Resource Institute, said as the world is facing so many existential problems such as COVID-19, unilateralism, and climate change, the ASEM13 has come at the right time to tackle these challenges.

“Over the past two years, COVID-19 has turned the world upside-down, so it is expected that the ASEM countries will reaffirm their commitment to address issues caused by COVID-19, to revitalize multilateralism for global peace and stability, and to accelerate their cooperation in science and technology, tourism, trade, and investment, among others to rebuild a resilient Asia-Europe future,” he said.

“In summary, people in Asia region expect to see a stable and predictable good relation between the two continents, Asia and Europe,” he added.

“In a multipolar world today, China represents an important role in Asia on the world affairs,” Kalyan said. “Without a stable relation between Asia and Europe poles, not much good outcome and development can be expected,” he added.

Joseph Matthews, a senior professor at the BELTEI International University in Phnom Penh, said there is no doubt that post-pandemic economic recovery strategy, multilateralism, and green development will top the agenda at the summit.

“The impacts of COVID-19 have reached every part of our societies and its recovery will surely be a long and difficult process,” he said. “This summit has the potential to highlight the collective actions to promote multilateralism in a more effective way to move slowly but surely towards a post-pandemic recovery period.”

Matthews said China’s participation shows its commitment to multilateralism, inclusive development, connectivity through digitalization, and infrastructure development both in Asia and Europe.

He said China’s state policy of non-interference in other countries’ domestic and internal affairs, co-existence, and mutual respect to all neighbors and non-neighbor states has made China a trustworthy friend for all continents in the world.

During the pandemic, China is the biggest vaccine and medical equipment donor to developing and poor countries in Asia, Africa, and South America, he added.

“In my perspective, China, in the post-pandemic era, will have a very important role to play in both continents,” he said. “China will be a driving force in economic recovery, infrastructure building under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), inclusive development, and connectivity in both continents.”