35th ASEAN Roundtable: The Covid-19 Crisis: Impact on ASEAN and the Way Forward

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The region is confronting one of the most difficult challenges since World War II. Southeast Asian countries are fighting multiple challenges ranging from immediate emergency healthcare responses, managing Covid-19 information and disinformation, getting in the race to obtain vaccines, keeping global trade and supply chains open, maintaining ASEAN’s relevance in the rapidly changing world order and finding ways to advance the multilateral agenda in the face of a global leadership vacuum. The theme of this year’s Roundtable is: The Covid-19 Crisis: Impact on ASEAN and the Way Forward. The aim is to take a deeper, analytical look at the impact and implications of the current Covid-19 pandemic outbreak on ASEAN as a region. With an eye on the short- to mid-term, speakers will examine pressing issues facing ASEAN governments and societies alike as they attempt to recover from the crisis. The annual ASEAN Roundtable provides a forum for leading scholars and commentators to examine key issues and challenges affecting ASEAN as a region and as a regional organisation.

The event is supported by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS).

Download the programme here.

Read the event highlight here.

Videos of the webinar can be viewed here.

This webinar will be delivered online entirely. You can join the webinar at the specified date and time using devices (computer, phone, or tablet) with internet connection.

Limited spaces only, register early to avoid disappointment.

To join the webinar,
1. Install the Zoom client onto your computer or download the app on your mobile device.
2. Set up a Zoom account, using the following link: https://zoom.us/signup
3. Click on the unique link in your email.

For the best experience, please mute your microphone. If you have questions for the speaker and discussants, please key in your questions via the Q&A, stating your name and affiliation. The moderator will field them to the speaker and the discussants during the Q&A session. 

DAY 1 Wednesday, 21 October 2020
10.00 am – 12.00 pm (Singapore time)

Session I: Covid-19’s Multi-Faceted Challenges in ASEAN

Covid-19 has tested ASEAN governments’ responsiveness in crisis management. The first session of the Roundtable will discuss ASEAN multiple institutional arrangements to manage policy response to the pandemic; whether ASEAN’s multilateralism framework is impactful during the crisis; whether ASEAN governments have been adequate in handling the health emergency; how ASEAN should strengthen its health cooperation through the promotion of ‘vaccine multilateralism’; how the dynamics of each individual country’s responses shapes regional action; and to what extent the crisis has intensified government responses to combat fake news domestically. As ASEAN governments face unprecedented challenges, the pandemic has revealed gaps in government coordination, preparation and response capacity, and transparency and accountability in policy-making. These gaps have prompted ASEAN governments to introduce quick responses and fixes which need to be assessed.

Opening Remarks:

Mr CHOI Shing Kwok
Director, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute
Mr Christian ECHLE
Director, Regional Programme Political Dialogue Asia
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung

Keynote Message:

Dr Koh Poh Koon
Senior Minister of State
Ministry of Health


Professor, The S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
(RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Dr Jonatan LASSA
Senior Lecturer, Charles Darwin University


Senior Lecturer and Researcher, Australian National University
Fellow, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute

DAY 2 Thursday, 22 October 2020
10.00 am – 11.15 am (Singapore time)

Session II: The Economic Impact of Covid-19 on ASEAN

The second session of the Roundtable will discuss the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on ASEAN’s economies, the way forward to sustain open trade policies, prospects of supply chains’ reconfiguration, and opportunities to leverage the existing regional agreements and the prospective Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to strengthen ASEAN’s economic integration. The pandemic has pushed the economies of ASEAN member states into a lockdown to help contain the virus and save lives. However, the strict lockdown can worsen an economic recession, at least in the short run. Economic slowdown has been further exacerbated by temporary trade restrictions due to concerns over domestic shortages of food and critical medical supplies. On the positive side, the pandemic reinforced the trend of firm relocations from China to other countries, which presents an opportunity for ASEAN to re-position itself in the global supply chains. Such opportunities for ASEAN can be further supported by the implementation of RCEP to lower trade costs and provide deeper common disciplines that facilitate the operation of economic activities spanning multiple borders.


Ms Selena LING
Chief Economist, OCBC Bank
Dr Jayant MENON
Visiting Senior Fellow, Regional Economic Studies Programme,
ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute


Tan Sri Dr. Munir MAJID
Chairman, CIMB ASEAN Research Institute (CARI)
Dr THAM Siew Yean
Visiting Senior Fellow, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute

DAY 3 Friday, 23 October 2020
10.00 am – 11.15 am (Singapore time)

Session III: Dealing With a Volatile World

This concluding session will examine the geopolitical fallouts of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially the falling apart of US-China relations, and how ASEAN and its member states can assert their agency and preserve their freedom of choice in this far less benign environment. The region has steadfastly refused to make a “binary choice” between the two major powers. What does that mean going forward? Instead of holding on to the passive position of neutrality and neutralisation, how can ASEAN enhance the nexus of “national and regional resilience” to take a positive and principled stand on geopolitical developments facing the region, and to build coalitions with like-minded partners near and far in maintaining the rules-based international system? The Covid-19 crisis has also exposed the inadequacy and dysfunction of multilateral institutions in the face of rising great power rivalry, protectionism, nationalism and nativism. Is it high time to update ASEAN-style multilateralism so that it can be more nimble and effective in response to black swan events of today and tomorrow?


Mr Bilahari KAUSIKAN
Chairman, Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore
Former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,

Concluding Remarks:


Former Foreign Minister of Indonesia
Dr Malcolm COOK
Visiting Senior Fellow, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute
Ms Sharon SEAH
Coordinator, ASEAN Studies Centre