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Multilateralism can help countries fight pandemic: EU, Asian leaders

Multilateralism can help countries
fight pandemic: EU, Asian leaders

Asian and European leaders stressed the importance of multilateralism for combatting the Covid-19 pandemic and kick-starting economic recovery at the start of an online ASEM summit on Thursday.
“Multilateral cooperation, and a strong Europe-Asia relationship in particular, is crucial for our global recovery. Covid-19 has impacted every country and region of the world, and every aspect of our lives.
It shows how interconnected we are,” EU Council President Charles Michel said on Thursday.
The rotating host, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, also called for a strengthening of multilateralism to accelerate global growth.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pointed to the strong trade relations and close ties between the two sides. “We can achieve so much if we work together.” The two-day deliberations, marking the group’s 25th anniversary, bring together 51 countries as well as top officials of the European Union and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
It is the world’s second-largest gathering of international leaders, behind the UN General Assembly. Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel is attending for the last time.
The contribution of “open and fair world trade” is crucial for global economic recovery, Merkel said, according to government spokesperson Steffen Seibert.
The German chancellor stressed the importance of Europe and Asia’s economic interdependence and cooperation as the foundations of prosperity.
In view of the changes in the world political situation since the founding of ASEM 25 years ago, it was important to “set new impulses,” she continued, adding that many global issues can only be solved together.
Multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) must be strengthened again, according to the German leader. Merkel advocated “rules-based action” that would guarantee fairness and predictability and enable closer cooperation despite the differences between the ASEM states.
Also attending are Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa for the EU presidency and EU foreign affairs envoy Josep Borrell.
In a world where zero-sum mentalities and power plays between global heavyweights affect advances on anything from climate to technology, countries caught in the middle are increasingly frustrated by their perceived lack of agency,” Lizza Bomassi of the Carnegie think tank wrote in an analysis, adding that “the informality of ASEM allows it a level of flexibility that other, more structured, formal entities do not have.” The ASEM partners represent 55 per cent of world trade and 60 per cent of the world’s population.
The meeting is held every two years at leaders’ level, but had been postponed twice last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Myanmar’s military government is not attending. The junta had been informed that it could only send a “nonpolitical representative,” the Japanese news agency Kyodo reported.
ASEAN had already excluded the head of the military junta, General Min Aung Hlaing, from previous meetings because of his harsh actions after the coup in Myanmar. Myanmar is sending a technical team for observation, Kyodo reported.
In addition to the European Union’s 27 member states, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and Britain are represented, along with countries such as Russia and India, Asian economic giants China, Japan and South Korea, as well as Australia and New Zealand.