ASEAN Economic Ministers Virtual Meeting

MANILA—During the 52nd ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) meeting, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez stressed that the ASEAN’s 2020 theme of “cohesive and responsive” is the formula on how the region can overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Let us continue to strengthen effective cross-pillar and cross-sectoral coordination given that the socio-economic impact of the pandemic cuts across sectors,” Sec. Lopez said. 

He added, “We suggest looking into the sectors that significantly contribute to our regional economic growth, such as travel and tourism, and education, and on areas that are can serve as drivers to regional growth such as digital technology, and e-commerce.” 

The trade chief met with other trade ministers on 25 August 2020, where he advocated for strengthened regional support for MSMEs, especially during this challenging time. Together with the other ministers, Sec. Lopez also emphasized the need for an enhanced shift to digital platforms.  

“Given the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that we promote e-commerce in the region, but also to support our MSMEs and at the same encourage consumer spending which is highly needed in this challenging time,” Sec. Lopez said. 

Earlier in the day, the 34th Meeting of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA Council) Meeting and the AEM-23rd ASEAN Investment Area (AIA) Council Meeting were also held. 

The Trade Secretary also noted: “It is also important that we continue to provide opportunities for our migrant workers, facilitate the essential movement of business travel, promote the use of digital technology, and enhance consumer protection at this time of pandemic.” 

The ASEAN member states also shared their respective best trade and economic practices on combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise, the ministers also lauded the adoption of the Hanoi Plan of Action on Strengthening ASEAN Economic Cooperation and Supply Chain Connectivity in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.  

“The Hanoi Plan of Action on Strengthening ASEAN Economic Cooperation and Supply Chain Connectivity in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic is a testament of our commitment to work together,” Sec. Lopez said. 

During the meeting, the Philippines also discussed how it would navigate rules that will further improve the investment environment in the Philippines. 

The Trade Secretary endorsed his support for the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership that would broaden and deepen the ASEAN region’s Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with its five partners, namely, the People’s Republic of China, Republic of Korea, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. 

The Philippines also expressed its utmost support for the establishment of the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies (RRMS), which the trade chief said will be extremely helpful in terms of ensuring the availability of much needed supplies in times of similar situations in the future. 

The trade chief added: “We strongly support the development of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework. This work should guide ASEAN in the recovery towards a new and better normal, that takes into account the concerns of all our stakeholders.” 

Aside from these, Sec. Lopez also continued to push for non-tariff measures in order the enhance integration on trade and investment. 

“At this time of crisis, unnecessary trade barriers should have no place in our Intra ASEAN trade as they only aggravate the adverse effect of the pandemic,” he said. ♦

Date of Release: 25 August 2020