SINGAPORE - With memories of the 2003 Sars outbreak still fresh, Asean and three regional partners - China, South Korea and Japan - have taken another step towards safeguarding healthcare in the area.
A Statement on Cooperation Against Antimicrobial Resistance was issued on Thursday (Nov 15) in addition to other matters tabled such as a work programme on economic cooperation.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the 21st Asean Plus Three Summit that the countries in the group cooperate in areas such as education, finance and food security, although this year, particular attention was paid to healthcare.
The statement on combating antimicrobial resistance, he said, "will drive our collective efforts to tackle this pressing challenge".
Mr Lee also outlined the "unpredictable strategic landscape" countries now find themselves in.
"Major power rivalry is on the rise, manifesting itself in competing visions for the regional architecture and in a growing trade war," he noted.
At the same time, even as the digital revolution allows nations to forge closer networks, it has made parties more vulnerable to cyber attacks.
"These developments call for the Asean Plus Three members to close ranks and to redouble our efforts to uphold multilateralism," said Mr Lee, who urged his counterparts to continue upholding an open, rules-based and inclusive global trade environment.
He noted the need to strengthen the multilateral trading system, expand cooperation into digital domains such as fintech and build a sustainable future for people across the region.
"I am confident that the Asean Plus Three will continue to grow and strengthen, and contribute to playing a vital role in maintaining our open, inclusive and Asean-centric regional architecture," added Mr Lee.
The summit at Suntec Singapore was attended by Asean leaders and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha.