This year marks the 35th anniversary of the establishment of U.S.-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) relations. Our relationship is broad-based, multifaceted, and strategic – encompassing cooperation across ASEAN’s political-security, economic, and socio-cultural communities.
Enhancing Engagement and Dialogue: The United States has substantially deepened our relationship with ASEAN through formal meetings with a range of ASEAN bodies at the senior, policy- and working-levels, as well as ongoing cooperation with the Committee of Permanent Representatives and ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta. Examples of our engagement include:
• President Obama inaugurated United States membership in the East Asia Summit (EAS) with his participation in November 2011 Summit in Bali. President Obama has co-chaired three consecutive U.S.-ASEAN Leaders Meetings.
• Secretary Clinton has been a dedicated and active participant in the ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and EAS Foreign Ministers meetings. The United States is a member of the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus, and Secretary Panetta participated in an informal meeting with ASEAN Defense Ministers in 2011.
• The first U.S. resident ambassador to ASEAN, David Carden, has led the U.S. Mission to ASEAN since April 2011. The United States is one of only two ASEAN Dialogue Partners to have a resident Ambassador to ASEAN in Jakarta.
• The State Department reorganized bureaucratically to assign its first ever Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Multilateral Affairs and Strategy and to open a new Office of Multilateral Affairs in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs focused on the region’s multilateral institutions.
• The first meeting of the U.S.-ASEAN Eminent Persons Group was held in Manila in May 2012. The group will issue its report to President Obama and ASEAN leaders later this year.
• We will welcome the ASEAN Committee of Permanent Representatives to the United States for a study visit later this year.
• The ASEAN Development Vision to Advance National Cooperation and Economic Integration (the ADVANCE program), supported jointly by the State Department and USAID, implements approximately 40 activities each year to support human rights promotion and protection, narrow the development gap among ASEAN member countries, and enhance economic integration.
• The Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI), established in 2009, advances cooperation among the Lower Mekong sub-region in the areas of connectivity, health, education and the environment. U.S. assistance and cooperation in the LMI complements broader U.S. public and private support for ASEAN’s ambitious Connectivity Initiative, helping to narrow the gap between the least and most prosperous members of ASEAN.
Promoting Economic Ties and Support for ASEAN Connectivity: The United States strives to expand our trade relationship and economic cooperation with ASEAN to support ASEAN’s integration goals and increase opportunities for American businesses in the region. The United States and ASEAN are each others’ fourth largest trading partners. U.S. departments and agencies have extensive economic activities and programs with ASEAN including:
• Secretary Clinton will lead the U.S. delegation to the “Commitment to Connectivity: The U.S.-ASEAN Business Forum” on July 13 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Forum will bring together senior U.S. and ASEAN government officials and business leaders to support ASEAN’s connectivity agenda and strengthen U.S. and ASEAN business-to-business ties. Co-hosted by the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the event will also feature Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Burmese President Thein Sein, and numerous ASEAN ministers.
• The Connectivity Cooperation Initiative, supported by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) and announced by President Obama at the November 2011 U.S.-ASEAN Leaders Meeting, aims to increase U.S. private sector support for ASEAN’s connectivity efforts. USTDA convened the Initiative’s first activity – a workshop on Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Management Workshop – in May in Bangkok and will host a workshop related to smart grids across ASEAN in November 2012 in Hanoi, Vietnam.
• The United States, led by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), works with ASEAN through the U.S.-ASEAN Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement to support regional trade, investment, and economic integration. Through this effort, the United States and ASEAN are introducing new trade initiatives on digital connectivity, healthcare services, agribusiness, and consumer goods, and will hold the U.S.-ASEAN Business Summit at the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting in August in Cambodia. USTR has also led the United States’ engagement in support of Laos’ efforts to accede to the World Trade Organization.
• The United States is a key supporter of the ASEAN Single Window project, which aims to develop an integrated cross-border process for customs clearance to increase trade efficiency and competitiveness across the region.
• The United States Department of Commerce supports ASEAN’s efforts to harmonize standards and regulations in priority sectors, including areas such asconformity assessment, regulatory practices, green buildings, medical devices, improved food safety practices, green chemistry and health supplements.
• As part of a longstanding cooperative program, in May, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) convened intellectual property rights enforcement officials, attorneys, artists, and experts to provide training for 70 ASEAN regulators.
• As an Asian Development Bank (ADB) member, the United States supported creation of the ASEAN Infrastructure Fund of $485 million to support infrastructure projects aimed at creating an integrated ASEAN community. Funded projects will create opportunities for U.S. businesses to participate in ASEAN infrastructure projects in the energy, transportations, and information and communications technology sectors.
Increasing People-to-People Ties: Recognizing the importance of increasing engagement at the individual and society levels, we have expanded our people-to-people activities with ASEAN, including through the following programs:
• We will welcome the first group of students to Hawaii in September under the five year, $25 million Brunei-U.S. Partnership on English Language Education for ASEAN. This initiative, which is being implemented by the East-West Center and the Universiti Brunei Darussalam, will help to unify ASEAN, improve English language capacity, and advance educational and teaching opportunities in the region.
• A pilot initiative under the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) Fulbright program will be launched to support the exchange of U.S. and ASEAN scholars. As part of our flagship education program, the initiative will enable Fulbright scholars from ASEAN to travel to the U.S. to focus on ASEAN-related priorities while Fulbright specialists from the United States will support research and thought leadership at ASEAN-related institutions.
• In April 2012, the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children visited Washington, D.C. and New York at the invitation of Secretary Clinton.
• The United States collaborated with the ASEAN University Network to develop the first-ever ASEAN Studies Course for undergraduates. At the ASEAN Education Ministers Meeting in Yogyakarta, Indonesia this month, we launched a manual for teachers to incorporate lessons on ASEAN into primary and secondary school classrooms.
• In 2013, we will welcome ten non-governmental and community activists, development experts, and new media practitioners from ASEAN to the United States under a new ASEAN International Visitor Leadership Program on New Media program.
• In 2012, we will launch a Southeast Asia Youth Leadership Program Alumni Summit to engage up to 180 teenage alumni and educators from all ten ASEAN member countries to promote cross-border community projects on issues of common interest.
• The State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) launched the ASEAN Connectivity Speaker Program to send U.S. speakers to ASEAN member countries to discuss topics included in the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity in 2013.
• An EducationUSA college fair in 2013 will bring American university representatives to Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Cambodia. Other ASEAN countries will be included in future fairs.
• The United States provides important assistance to the ASEAN Human Rights Resource Center to conduct research and training activities.
Strengthening Collaboration on Political/Security Issues, Disaster Relief, and Science: Other examples of U.S. support for ASEAN include:
• The United States through USAID cooperates with ASEAN to end human trafficking in Southeast Asia through the U.S.-supported MTV EXIT campaign. Utilizing MTV EXIT’s live concerts in Manila, Phnom Penh, and Hanoi, broadcasts across the region, and youth-related capacity building programs, we have raised regional awareness among hundreds of thousands of young ASEAN citizens about the issue of human trafficking.
• We are supporting the ASEAN Center for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (AHA Center), which coordinates disaster response activities across the ASEAN region, including through installation of a regional disaster monitoring system.
• The United States supports a pilot project on the use of carbon emissions monitoring tools to help ASEAN cities develop baselines for emissions levels, and plan strategies to measure and monitor results of their efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.
• Officials from the United States met with the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology (COST) in Naypyitaw in May to strengthen cooperation in the health sciences and delivery sector.
• Through the Maximizing Agricultural Revenue through Knowledge, Enterprise Development, and Trade (MARKET) program, the United States is working closely with ASEAN to improve regional food security by increasing market access for food producers and increasing price transparency for ASEAN consumers.