Cambodia primed to host virtual ASEM13

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Prime Minister Hun Sen gives a speech online to open the first Asia-Europe Business and Economic Forum on Wednesday. AKP

Prime Minister Hun Sen is set to chair the 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) hosted by Cambodia on November 25-26 via videoconference from the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh.

Held under the theme “Strengthening Multilateralism for Shared Growth”, the ASEM13 will provide a timely opportunity for leaders from both Asia and Europe to affirm the importance of ASEM cooperation in tackling global and regional issues of mutual interest, including the Covid-19 pandemic and its socio-economic impacts.

“Hosting the ASEM13 reflects Cambodia’s commitment at its highest level to the advancement of multilateralism as much as its active engagement with the international community to tackle current and emerging global challenges,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in a press release on November 23.

Representatives from the ASEM13 side conferences will deliver their statements ahead of the summit. They include National Assembly president Heng Samrin for the Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting; Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak for the Asia-Europe Business and Economic Forum; Minister of Women’s Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi for the Asia-Europe Forum on Women, Peace and Security; as well as representatives from the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) Young Leaders Summit and Asia-Europe People Forum.

During the two-day meeting, the ASEM leaders will discuss their role in promoting multilateralism as well as focusing on a number of other topics including revitalising multilateralism for global peace and stability; strengthening the rule-based trading system; inclusive and sustainable growth and developments; connectivity; women, peace, and security; and climate change.

The ASEM leaders will also discuss Covid-19 socio-economic recovery and development, which focuses on addressing issues caused by Covid-19 and advancing shared growth to rebuild for a resilient future, the press release noted.

“During the retreat session, the ASEM leaders will have an opportunity to express and exchange their points of view in a free, frank and constructive manner on global and regional issues,” it said.

The ASEM13 will adopt the ASEM13 chair’s statement, the Phnom Penh statement on the post-Covid-19 socio-economic recovery and the way forward on ASEM connectivity, according to the press release.

Heng Kimkong, a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland and visiting senior research fellow at the Cambodia Development Centre, told The Post on November 24 that Cambodia hosting the ASEM13 will give the Kingdom an image boost and showcase it as a peaceful and secure country capable of hosting high-level meetings.

Cambodia may also have the opportunity to discuss with European countries some important issues affecting the country and the region as a whole as well as issues of importance to Europe and the wider world, he said.

“The meeting is vital to Cambodia’s post-pandemic recovery – particularly for reviving its tourism industry,” Kimkong said. “No doubt, ASEM13 will make headlines. This puts Cambodia in international news reports in a large number of countries potentially, which is great for the nation’s tourism.”

“Hopefully, after the meeting, Cambodia will be able to attract more tourists and foreign direct investment needed to drive its economic growth in the post-pandemic world,” he added.

Thong Mengdavid, a research fellow at the Mekong Centre for Strategic Studies at the Asian Vision Institute, told The Post on November 24 that the ASEM13 this year will be focused on promoting multilateralism, which is fundamental to building an international community with peace, prosperity, sustainable development and promoting cultural and educational exchanges between the peoples of the two regions.

“The meeting process will further [inform] the EU about Cambodia – a small but capable country – that plays a vital role in connecting the two regions and promoting multilateral solutions to the economic, social, cultural and security of the region,” he said.