Speech at Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit on COVID-19
H.E. Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
Beijing, 14 April 2020
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc,
It is good to see you all via video link. We meet at a challenging time when countries around the world are battling COVID-19. This has made our Special Summit all the more relevant. I wish to thank Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc for his tremendous efforts in making this meeting possible.
With more than 200 countries and regions affected to date, COVID-19 is gravely threatening the health, safety and life of people around the world. The global economy has come under severe strain, with simultaneous contraction of supply and demand, massive volatility in the financial markets, and plummeting trade and investment. We are at growing risk of a social governance crisis, a humanitarian crisis, and even a possible food crisis. The outbreak has turned more destructive than anticipated, and has presented a major test for each and every country.
At the recent Extraordinary G20 Leaders’ Summit, President Xi Jinping highlighted the imperative for the international community to strengthen confidence, act in unity and make a collective response by comprehensively stepping up international cooperation.
Being each other’s close neighbors, we, the APT countries, have developed a full-fledged industrial chain and a mutually complementary specialization structure. We have gained valuable experience of jointly tackling crises and have put in place mechanisms for enhancing emergency preparedness.
In fighting the epidemic, our fortunes are closely inter-connected; in sustaining economic growth, our interests are closely aligned.
The battle against COVID-19 has made us more aware that we are in a community with a shared future. We must act with a greater sense of common purpose and stronger resolve. We must make more determined efforts and work together in closer coordination and cooperation. We need to send a message of partnership, solidarity and mutual assistance among East Asian countries to boost confidence in our region and beyond. Together, we must secure an early victory against COVID-19 in East Asia.
Facing this unexpected disease, the Chinese government has consistently followed a people-centered approach. China puts the life and health of all its people front and center. It has adhered to the principles of shoring up confidence, strengthening unity, following a science-based approach and taking targeted measures, and has all along been open and transparent.
Thanks to the painstaking efforts of the whole country and society, China has achieved major progress in containing the outbreak, and life and work is returning to normal at a faster pace in our country.
We introduced massive tax and fee cuts to lessen corporate burdens, boost consumption growth and bolster new forms of industry. We will persist with reform and opening-up and intensify fiscal and monetary policies in an effort to promote economic and social development.
Going forward, we will sustain outbreak control measures targeting priority areas and potential risks to forestall a resurgence of infection. Any complacency in this regard would be misplaced.
We will never forget that fellow APT countries provided valuable assistance to us at a most difficult time. No country can tackle this disease on its own. We are all in this together.
Here, I wish to put forward China’s proposals on APT cooperation in fighting the outbreak.
First, APT countries need to enhance all-round cooperation against the epidemic and build up public health capacity.
Protecting and saving lives is a first-order priority. We need to protect the safety and health of the foreign nationals we host, especially students, the same way we protect our own citizens.
We should strengthen coordination and collaboration among the health, customs, transportation and immigration authorities of APT countries. And a liaison mechanism should be explored for smooth and regular communication among us on outbreak development, control measures and management of border entries and exits. This will create greater synergy of our responses which is essential for curtailing the spread of infection.
We need to share diagnostic and treatment experience, research data and information, and conduct joint research and development of drugs and vaccines.
We need to coordinate the production, demand and supply of medical supplies, and facilitate each other’s purchase of these supplies on a commercial basis.
China will provide support and assistance to ASEAN countries to the best of our capability as grant assistance and via commercial channels, and will send more medical experts to ASEAN countries in light of your needs.
Various groups in Chinese society are also mobilizing resources to provide anti-epidemic and humanitarian assistance for the ASEAN countries in need.
China supports ASEAN in setting up a COVID-19 ASEAN response fund, and will provide necessary support through the ASEAN-China Cooperation Fund and APT Cooperation Fund to boost its capacity.
In view of both current and longer-term needs, China suggests an APT reserve of essential medical supplies be established to make our response faster and emergency supplies more readily available.
We need to carry out tabletop exercises for public health emergencies and make better use of the APT Cooperation Fund to conduct more public health training programs.
We should also support WHO in leading a global response to the outbreak. We need to beef up coordination and cooperation with WHO, and work jointly to safeguard regional and global public health security.
Second, we need to revitalize economic growth and deepen regional economic integration. We APT countries enjoy high economic complementarity, strong business ties, full-fledged industrial systems and closely-entwined interests. These are our strengths that must be brought out to the full.
On this basis, we should further ease tariffs, eliminate barriers, boost the flow of trade and investment, and keep markets open to each other, in an effort to restore growth in East Asia as quickly as possible.
With all the necessary control measures in place, we should consider opening a “fast-track lane” for essential personnel on urgent visits in the areas of commerce, logistics, production and technological services. China is discussing this idea bilaterally with the ROK and Singapore, and hopes that in time such arrangements will be expanded to other countries with similar needs. This will be conducive to maintaining the necessary flow of people and goods and stabilizing the industrial and supply chains without compromising outbreak control.
We need to conduct joint research on enhancing the industrial and supply chains among APT countries to shore up the weak links and make them more resilient.
We should advance cooperation on health and medical care, smart manufacturing, big data, and 5G to foster new drivers of growth.
We also need to work toward signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement within the agreed time-frame, and speed up the Trilateral FTA negotiations to enhance regional economic integration.
Third, we need to intensify policy coordination to weather all kinds of risks and challenges. The APT framework played a positive role in tackling the Asian and global financial crises. We should remain confident about our ability to overcome the financial risks and challenges brought by COVID-19, and serve as an anchor of stability for the region.
We should expand the use of local currencies in regional trade and investment and improve the currency-swap network. Mechanisms such as the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization (CMIM) and the APT Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) need to be fully leveraged to enhance crisis preparedness.
We should support the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and other multilateral financial institutions in taking prompt actions to ensure adequate liquidity.
China will earmark US$10 million in its Poverty Reduction and Regional Cooperation Fund under the ADB to support outbreak control programs in the region.
We also welcome the AIIB’s proposal of a COVID-19 Recovery Facility with an initial capitalization of US$5 billion.
Our region is one of the world’s main grain producers. It is home to over a quarter of the world’s population, and most of us are developing countries. Ensuring food security is vitally important. We must make full use of the APT Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR), intensify collaboration to ensure regional grain supply and market security, and fend off a food crisis.
Viruses are a common enemy of humanity. It falls on all of us to rise to the occasion and meet this challenge with solidarity and concerted action. Working together in partnership is the right way forward.
The Chinese people will continue to stand side by side with other peoples in East Asia and across the world in navigating these tough times.
I have every confidence that together we will prevail over the epidemic. We will revitalize the regional economy, and contribute to the prosperity and stability of the world.