JAKARTA, 3 March 2021 - The 27th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Retreat took place on 2-3 March via videoconference. The retreat ushered the first high-level engagement among ASEAN Economic Ministers under Brunei Darussalam’s chairmanship.

Against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministers and relevant representatives discussed post-pandemic recovery efforts across the region, progress made in ASEAN’s economic community-building efforts and ASEAN’s external economic relations.

The ministers highlighted the need for greater regional cooperation and collective action to begin the process of gradual economic recovery in ASEAN. Discussions on this included strengthening the resilience of regional value chains and supply chain linkages; harnessing technology to facilitate essential business travels and regional tourism in a safe manner; and committing to unimpeded flow of essential goods across the region.

In line with this, the ministers endorsed Brunei Darussalam’s 13 priority economic deliverables which focus on recovery, digitalisation, and sustainability.

On the ongoing digital transformation and accelerated digitisation taking place in ASEAN due to the pandemic, the ministers emphasised the need to ensure that benefits from digitisation redound to ASEAN’s peoples.

The Secretary-General of ASEAN Dato Lim Jock Hoi underscored the critical need for innovative solutions and capitalizing on digital technology to fast track safe reopening of ASEAN’s economies towards recovery. He cited, in particular, leveraging on the travel corridor framework to pursue common health protocols for possible health/vaccines certificates.

Noting the importance of sending a signal that ASEAN remains open for business, the ministers reaffirmed their commitment to work on their domestic ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement to ensure that businesses and the people are able to reap the benefits arising from the implementation of RCEP.

The ministers will re-convene on September 2021 for the 53rd ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting.