LEADERS in ASEAN actively engaged with ASEAN Business Advisory Council
(ASEAN BAC) via videoconference during their 17th Dialogue last Friday, June 26, 2020. The
Leaders highlighted the key role that the private sector plays to help ASEAN, both at national and
regional levels, to mitigate the devastating economic and social impact of the pandemic and lift the
region towards economic recovery at the earliest possible time.
ASEAN Chair Prime Minister H.E. Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Viet Nam conveyed his gratitude to
ASEAN BAC led by 2020 Chair Dr. Doan Duy Khuong for putting together a package of actionable
short-term recommendations and key elements of the Post Pandemic Economic Recovery Plan
with the support from Partner Joint Business Councils and Sector Champions. ASEAN BAC Chair
Khuong first and foremost urged the establishment of the ASEAN High Level Special Commission
on Covid-19 and the formulation of the Post Pandemic Economic Recovery Plan. Chair Dr. Khuong
also emphasized the readiness of ASEAN BAC and its partners to help the Commission through
the Special Business Advisory Board as private sector advisory body.
The ASEAN Chair was pleased to note that the practical recommendations to bring back
confidence and trust in business operations related to ensuring health protocol measures,
uninterrupted supply chains of essential goods and services, provision of safety nets for impacted
and vulnerable sectors are “very significant and can be utilized immediately”.
Thai Prime Minister H.E. Prayut Chan-o-Cha focused on the importance of ASEAN resilience in
responding to future health emergencies as covered by ASEAN BAC’s presentation. Prime Minister
Chan-o-Cha supports having strong public health infrastructure and rolling out trade facilitation
reforms to ensure resilient, open markets and uninterrupted business flow and logistics. He added
that making ASEAN leverage on the opportunities of 4IR, e-commerce and full utilization of existing
FTAs are crucial to bring in investments and make ASEAN an investment hub. Prime Minister
Chan-o-Cha gave strong support to ASEAN BAC’s proposal to set up the Special Business
Advisory Board to ensure strong private sector cooperation with ASEAN but must ensure no
duplication with related initiatives from other ASEAN bodies.
Cambodian Prime Minister H.E. Hun Sen meanwhile emphasized that the pandemic has
accentuated the urgency to improve the regional supply chain and increase in intra-ASEAN trade
through the immediate elimination of remaining tariff barriers and difficult non-tariff barriers Prime
Minister Hun Sen also urged that ASEAN should strive for self-sufficiency – not by detaching from
the global value chains – but precisely enhancing its competitiveness. He also called on the private
sector not to rely solely on governments to do everything, but to be mindful of their corporate social
responsibility to those affected.
Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto, speaking on behalf of
H.E. President Joko Widodo, reiterated the need to move away from the “business as usual” mode
to effective action. He took note of the importance of a Digital ASEAN for sustainable development
with particular focus on ASEAN’s human resource development. He said that Education, Technical
and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and human resource (HR) are the drivers that
would synchronize and connect job seekers and employers’ interests under the 4IR era. He
likewise extended support for the establishment of the High-Level Special Commission (HLSC) and
Special Business Advisory Board (SBAB).
Malaysia’s Senior Minister of International Trade and Industry, Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, who spoke on
behalf of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, said that given the crucial role of the private sector, he
fully supports the establishment of the High-Level Special Commission to ensure efficient and
effective decision-making involved in undertaking such a huge responsibility. He stressed that time
is of the essence for the finalization of a concerted ERP and must be anchored on the Hanoi Plan
of Action towards greater economic integration and supply chain connectivity.
The Thai Prime Minister Chan-o-cha and Indonesian Minister Airlangga Hartarto also expressed
concurrence with ASEAN BAC’s recommendation to finalize RCEP in the earliest possible time to
unleash its potential to create more markets for ASEAN and enhance ASEAN’s competitiveness
precisely at this time when it is most needed. ASEAN BAC strongly pushed for the finalization of
RCEP but provides India all the opportunity to join up to the end of the year.