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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Saturday (November 14) announced a series of financial packages to support ASEAN and Mekong countries with post-COVID-19 economic recovery at the second ASEAN-Australia biennial summit.

Those included A$21 million to the ASEAN Centre for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases, which was launched on Thursday; A$1 million for the ASEAN COVID-19 Respond Fund; and A$70 million for resilience and recovery in Southeast Asia in the sectors of maritime, connectivity, sustainable development and economic co-operation.

Australia recently committed some $500 million over three years to support access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Safe effective access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines will be the central factor in our collective recovery, Morrison said.

The Australian PM also committed a A$232 million package for Mekong countries, focusing on the environment, infrastructure, cyber, and critical technologies and scholarships.

“In spite of changes brought by COVID-19, ASEAN remains united as always and Australia’s commitment to a region of sovereign, independent states, resilient to coercion, remains absolutely steadfast,” he said.

“We are more than your neighbour as your first dialogue partner, we are also your partner in the great recovery.

“ASEAN centrality is at the core of Australia’s vision for the Indo Pacific. We strongly support the ASEAN outlook for the Indo-Pacific.

“In Australia we understand that your prosperity is our prosperity.”

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc said as Australia was one of the most long-standing partners of ASEAN with relationship established in 1974. Over the past four decades, the bilateral relationship has been increasingly strengthened.

At the ASEAN-Australia Summit on Saturday, the two sides agreed to hold the summit annually instead of biennially as a foundation to further deepen and substantially promote the important relationship. — VNS

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