Published on 23th November 2020.

The 37th ASEAN Summit was held via teleconference and hosted in Hanoi on 12 November 2020 under Vietnam’s 2020 Chairmanship theme “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN.”


Below are ASEAN’s collective efforts to respond to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and promoting regional comprehensive recovery.

  1. The ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies (RRMS) for Public Health Emergencies was launched and will focus on strengthening the region’s capacity, resilience and enhanced preparedness to respond to current and future public health emergencies.
  2. The ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF) and its Implementation Plan, were adopted. The ACRF serves as a consolidated strategy for ASEAN to emerge more resilient and stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, giving due consideration to the hardest hit sectors and vulnerable groups while the Implementation Plan will be reviewed and updated periodically. The ACRF focuses on five broad strategies, namely:
    • (i) enhancing the health system;
    • (ii) strengthening human security;
    • (iii) maximising the potential of intra-ASEAN market and broader economic integration;
    • (iv) accelerating inclusive digital transformation; and
    • (v) advancing towards a more sustainable and resilient future.
  3. As an early outcome of the ACRF, the Memorandum of Understanding on the Implementation of the Non-Tariff Measures on Essential Goods under the Hanoi Plan of Action on Strengthening ASEAN Economic Cooperation and Supply Chain Connectivity in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, has been concluded.
  4. The establishment of the ASEAN Center for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases (ACPHEED), which would serve as a centre of excellence and regional resource hub to strengthen ASEAN’s regional capabilities to prepare for, prevent, detect and respond to public health emergencies and emerging diseases. The work of the ACPHEED should also complement the national health sector, national centres for disease control (CDCs) and other regional platforms relevant to ensuring public health and safety.
  5. Efforts are ongoing for the implementation of:
    • the Statement of ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry in Response to The Outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) to Ensure Food Security, Food Safety and Nutrition in ASEAN;
    • the ASEAN Integrated Food Security (AIFS) Framework and Strategic Plan of Action on Food Security (SPA-FS) 2021-2025 to enhance coordinated response on food security; and
    • the Ha Noi Plan of Action on Strengthening ASEAN Economic Cooperation and Supply Chain Connectivity.
  6. The adoption of the Declaration on an ASEAN Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework, which aims to facilitate essential business travels among the ASEAN Member States while prioritising public health safety through developing a common set of health and safety measures to protect the well-being and safety of ASEAN citizens in accordance with prevailing public health regulations required by the authorities of each ASEAN Member State.
  7. In ensuring close cooperation with ASEAN’s partners for a strong and resilient post-COVID-19 economy, the following documentation was adopted:
    • the ASEAN Plus Three Plan of Action on Mitigating the Economic Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic;
    • ASEAN-China Economic Ministers’ Joint Statement on Combating COVID-19 and Enhancing Cooperation under ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA);
    • the ASEAN-Japan Economic Resilience Action Plan;
    • the Joint Initiatives on Bolstering the Economic Connectivity between ASEAN-Republic of Korea in response to the COVID-19 Outbreak; and
    • the Joint Statement of ASEAN and China Transport Ministers on Ensuring Smooth Transport and Logistics to Combat COVID-19 and Reactivate the Economy.
  8. The Preliminary Report of the Mid-Term Review (MTR) of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint 2025 was submitted through the AEC Council.
  9. The public version of the Final Report of the MTR of the AEC Blueprint 2025, capturing the assessment of implementation until 2020 will be made available once it is ready.


  1. The Second Progress Review Report and Mid-Term Review (MTR) of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC 2025) has been finalised. The outcomes and recommendations of the MTR of MPAC 2025 would provide crucial insights for the future direction of ASEAN Connectivity.
  2. The Framework for Improving ASEAN Infrastructure Productivity has been finalised. The initiative will develop the ASEAN Database on Trade Routes and Framework for Enhancing Supply Chain Efficiency to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in the region, stimulate post-pandemic economic recovery and strengthen resilience.
  3. The ASEAN Connectivity Coordinating Committee (ACCC) Consultations with Dialogue Partners and Other External Partners on Connectivity and 11th ASEAN Connectivity Symposium on Enhancing ASEAN Cohesiveness, Responsiveness through Resilient Connectivity and Human Capital Development were successfully convened on 26 August 2020 and 28 August 2020, respectively.


  1. Progress was made in the achievement of the 13 Priority Economic Deliverables for Vietnam’s ASEAN Chairmanship under the three strategic thrusts of:
    • (i) Promoting Intra-ASEAN Economic integration and connectivity;
    • (ii) Deepening ASEAN’s Engagement with the Global community for Peace and Sustainable Development; and
    • (iii) Enhancing the Responsiveness and Institutional capacity of ASEAN.

    The progress made was:

    • (i) The adoption of the ASEAN Digital Integration Index (ADII);
    • (ii) The launch of the ASEAN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Indicators Baseline Report 2020 and Online Database Portal for ASEAN SDG Indicators;
    • (iii) The endorsement of the Implementing Policy Guidelines (IPG) of the ASEAN Payment Policy Framework for Cross-Border Real Time Retail Payments and the draft Guidelines for Updating the Annex on Use Cases of the IPG;
    • (iv) the endorsement of the Report on Promoting Sustainable Finance in ASEAN;
    • (v) the completion of negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP),
    • (vi) the completion of the Preliminary Report of the MTR for the AEC Blueprint 2025;
    • (vii) the endorsement of the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the ASEAN Network of Innovation Centres; and
    • (viii) the adoption of the new ASEAN Integrated Food Security Framework and Strategic Action Plan on ASEAN Food Security in the ASEAN region (2021-2025).
  2. Progress was also made in the development of a Roadmap and Action Plan to promote smart manufacturing development in ASEAN, the Best practice Guidelines for 5G Ecosystem Development in ASEAN, the on-going discussions to work towards lowering international mobile roaming (IMR) in ASEAN, and the Roadmap on Combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in the ASEAN Region for the period 2020-2025.
  3. In trade facilitation, the following progress was made:
    • The endorsement of a proposal to develop a framework to review the cost and effectiveness of the existing NTMs in ASEAN through an NTM Tool Kit, which is targeted for pilot implementation in ASEAN Member States by July 2021;
    • The implementation of the ASEAN-wide Self-Certification (AWSC) from 20 September 2020, which would further reduce trade transaction costs and simplify certification procedures;
    • The official launch of the ASEAN Customs Transit System (ACTS) on 2 November 2020 to facilitate the cross-border transit movement of goods. Under the ACTS, businesses can look forward to time savings and cost reductions, and better connectivity in moving goods via land across six Participating Member States (PMS), namely Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam;
    • The on-going signing of the Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) on Type Approval for Automotive Products;
    • The finalisation of several trade facilitative measures to address technical barriers including:
      • the revision of the 1998 ASEAN Framework Agreement on MRA and MRA on Building and Construction Materials; for which ASEAN Member States are in the process of securing full powers to sign these MRAs, and
      • the finalisation of the ASEAN Food Safety Regulatory Framework Agreement.
  4. The signing of the ASEAN Trade in Services Agreement (ATISA) and the Fourth Protocol to Amend the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA) was completed. These two documentations lay the foundation for ASEAN’s next phase of work in the integration of trade in services and investment, through transitioning into the negative list approach under the ATISA and additional reservations on the prohibition of performance requirement under the ACIA. The 2nd and 3rd Protocols to Amend the ACIA came into force on 18 June 2020.
  5. The following documentations were endorsed:
    • the Implementation Policy Guidelines for the ASEAN Payments Policy Framework for Cross-Border Real-Time Retail Payments, which will help advance the promotion of regional payment connectivity;
    • the Guideline on ASEAN Local Currency Settlement Framework, which has resulted in the conclusion of a number of bilateral local currency settlement arrangements between interested ASEAN Member States. More importantly, the expansion of the Local Currency Settlement Framework between Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand will be effective by the end of 2020.
  6. The ASEAN Cybersecurity Resilience and Information Sharing Platform (CRISP) was established as a platform for the sharing of threat intelligence and best practices related to cybersecurity.
  7. The completion and sharing of the following reference documents for MSMEs:
    • Enterprise Policy Responses to COVID-19 in ASEAN – Measures to Boost MSME Resilience; Guidelines for the Promotion of Inclusive Business in ASEAN;
    • and the ASEAN Guidelines on Fostering a Vibrant Ecosystem for Start-ups across Southeast Asia.

    These documents were developed in collaboration with various development partners from the Inclusive Business Action Network (iBAN), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP).

  8. The ASEAN Declaration on Digital Tourism was adopted. The initiative aims to encourage the application of digital technology and innovation in tourism development to enhance competitiveness, facilitate dynamic growth and develop sustainable tourism, as well as to provide opportunities and develop capabilities in the tourism sector of ASEAN.
  9. Progress was made in the negotiations of the ASEAN-European Union (EU) Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (CATA) and ASEAN-New Zealand Air Services Agreement (ANZ-ASA).
  10. Notable progress was made in the five-year implementation of the ASEAN Plan of Action on Energy Cooperation (APAEC) Phase I 2016-2020, which has significantly advanced regional connectivity and accessibility through enhanced power trade, expansion of regional gas infrastructure, the achievement of regional energy efficiency targets in 2020, and increasingly focused efforts to achieve the region’s 23% renewable energy target by 2025.


  1. Progress was made in efforts to integrate the ASEAN region into the global economy, which include the implementation of the ASEAN’s Free Trade Area (FTA) and Comprehensive Economic Partnership (CEP) agreements with major trading partners i.e., China, India, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand, and Hong Kong, China as well as engagement with potential new FTA partners.
  2. The completion of the substantial negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and signing of RCEP which demonstrated ASEAN’s strong commitment to supporting economic recovery, inclusive development as well as support for an open, inclusive, rules-based trade and investment arrangement. The RCEP Agreement is critical for the region’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and will play an important role in building the region’s resilience through an inclusive and sustainable post-pandemic economic recovery process.

Summarised by Aznita Ahmad Pharmy, Research Fellow, CIMB ASEAN Research Institute