The text of the following statement was released by the Governments of the United States and Vietnam as Co-Chairs of the ASEAN – U.S. High-level Interagency Video Conference to Counter COVID-19 held on April 1, 2020.
- The ASEAN Coordinating Council Working Group on Public Health Emergencies and United States interagency officials held a video conference on 01 April 2020 to discuss ASEAN-United States cooperation in public health emergencies and countering the COVID-19 pandemic.
- ASEAN Member States and the United States (collectively “We”) expressed deep condolences on the tragic loss of lives due to COVID-19, extending sympathies to those suffering from or threatened by this crisis, and expressed gratitude and support to all frontline health workers as we continue to fight the pandemic.
- We reaffirmed the value of the ASEAN-United States Strategic Partnership in strengthening coordination to face non-traditional security challenges, especially the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19, and to ensure the safety and well-being of our combined one billion-strong population.
- We highlighted the importance of ASEAN-United States collaboration in supporting international cooperation and national governments’ and authorities’ capacities to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats, including COVID-19. All parties acknowledged that public health is a cornerstone of the stability and prosperity of our nations and the wider region.
- We noted with satisfaction ongoing efforts by individual ASEAN Member States and the United States and commend the proactive role and timely actions taken by the ASEAN and United States Health Sectors, and we also acknowledge ongoing efforts by individual ASEAN Member States in controlling the spread of this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, including through various measures taken by their governments.
- All affirmed that emergency measures designed to tackle COVID-19, if deemed necessary at the national level, must be targeted, proportionate, transparent, and temporary, and not create unnecessary barriers to trade or disruption to global supply chains. All parties emphasized their shared commitment to ensuring the swift and continued flow of vital medical supplies and equipment, critical agricultural products, and other essential goods and services across borders, in support of the health of our citizens. All agreed on the importance of transparency and openness in sharing timely and accurate information on COVID-19 developments, both to domestic publics and international partners.
- The United States thanked ASEAN Member States for their support in facilitating the transit of American citizens seeking to return to the United States during the COVID-19 crisis. ASEAN Member States appreciated United States efforts to frequently update ASEAN diplomats with information on COVID-19 measures in the United States relevant to their citizens and providing them with appropriate support for matters related to the pandemic.
- ASEAN Member States exchanged experiences and best practices on measures for cooperation with the United States on prevention and control of COVID-19. ASEAN Member States proposed areas for expanded cooperation on health with the United States, to include human resource development, joint research, studies, and exercises in the areas of COVID-19 infection control, pandemic preparedness and response, training for doctors and nurses, enhancing biomedical research and laboratory facilities and systems, producing medical supplies, sharing information on updates on clinical management as well as sourcing of test kits, ventilators and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), research, development and production of vaccine for COVID-19, efforts to promote the normal flow of trade, services and investment, facilitation of trade in essential goods and medical supplies, and alleviating the potential downturns of the global economy. ASEAN Member States also informed the United States of their plan to explore the possibility of establishing a special fund for public health emergencies to address COVID-19 and future outbreaks, with the possibility of seeking partnership with its External Partners, and to strengthen regional cooperation mechanisms on health including the relevant EAS forum on strengthening the preparedness for infectious diseases with pandemic potential.
- ASEAN Member States welcomed United States critical support to multilateral organizations fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. United States funding for the WHO (over US$400 million USD in 2019) and UNICEF (at over US$700 USD million in 2019, the leading contribution among nations), have helped fund shipments of PPE to countries worldwide since the outbreak of COVID-19. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, the United States government has committed US$274 million USD in emergency coronavirus assistance to partners worldwide to support laboratory capabilities, disease surveillance, and rapid response. ASEAN Members States encouraged the United States to further promote similar contributions and cooperation.
- ASEAN Member States thanked the United States for its assistance to ASEAN Member States to combat the spread of COVID-19, including the provision of over US$ 18 million in assistance to date to ASEAN Member States. The United States reemphasized its commitment in providing international public health assistance, including through over US$ 3.5 billion in United States’ support to ASEAN Member States over the last twenty years. The United States pledged continued support for exchange programs that have included training of 2,400 ASEAN medical and health professionals to date, thus building people-to-people ties between researchers and healthcare workers across ASEAN and the United States. The United States offered continued support for those ASEAN Member States in need of additional assistance.
- We discussed further steps to strengthen ASEAN- United States collaboration on COVID-19 response, including through high-level engagement, and on public health cooperation more broadly. This included proposals by the United States for upcoming video conferences between the United States Secretary of State and ASEAN Foreign Ministers, as well as between the United States Secretary for Health and Human Services and ASEAN Health Ministers. In addition, the United States expressed strong support for helping ASEAN Member States and the ASEAN Secretariat to develop region-wide disease control structures that could strengthen the resilience and capacity of public health systems across ASEAN. We will explore the possibility of holding an experts-level video conference to follow up and explore further cooperation on this topic. The United States also planned to expand official engagement with ASEAN’s health sector, including through participation in SOM and Ministerial-level meetings of ASEAN health officials, as appropriate.
- We look forward to continued ASEAN-United States engagement through existing networks and platforms under the ASEAN Health sector, as well as the ASEAN Coordinating Council Working Group on Public Health Emergencies and International Health Regulations Mechanisms, to counter the impact of COVID-19 and safeguard the health and well-being of all our peoples.
- The Meeting was co-chaired by Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Dzung, ASEAN Senior Official (SOM) Leader of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell, Senior Official (SOM) for ASEAN of the United States. ASEAN Member State participants are Members of the ASEAN Coordinating Council Working Group on Public Health Emergencies including ASEAN Senior Officials (SOM), ASEAN Senior Economic Officials (SEOM), ASEAN Senior Officials’ Committee for the Socio-Cultural Community (SOCA), Chairman of the Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN (CPR), ASEAN Senior Officials for Health Development (SOMHD), ASEAN Defence Senior Officials (ADSOM), ASEAN Senior Transport Officials (STOM), ASEAN Directors- General of Immigration Departments and Heads of Consular Affairs Divisions of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs (DGICM). The Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN was also in attendance. United States participants included officials from the Departments of State, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).