Friday, April 12, 2024
Friday, April 12, 2024
Home » The United States-ASEAN Relationship

The United States-ASEAN Relationship

by Blake Brooks
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Secretary Blinken will travel to Jakarta, Indonesia, July 13-14, to participate in the United States-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the 13th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and the 30th ASEAN Regional Forum.  At each meeting, the Secretary will emphasize the United States’ commitment to ASEAN centrality and support for the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.  He will also address economic cooperation; the fight against climate change; maritime issues, including in the South China Sea; the ongoing crisis in Myanmar; and Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked war in Ukraine.  The Secretary’s conversations will build upon the historic U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit hosted by President Biden in Washington, D.C. in May 2022 and the November 2022 elevation of the U.S.-ASEAN relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

The United States and ASEAN are Enduring Partners

  • This year, the United States celebrates 46 years of U.S.-ASEAN partner relations. The United States continues to support implementation of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and to expand the many U.S.-ASEAN initiatives that enhance prosperity and security in the region.  The Comprehensive Strategic Partnership will catalyze collaboration, including through expanded ministerial-level engagement in the areas of climate, energy, transportation, women’s empowerment, and health.
  • From 2002 to 2021, the United States has provided over $12.1 billion in economic, health, and security assistance to Southeast Asian allies and partners, including the 10 ASEAN member states.  Over that same period, the United States has provided over $1.5 billion in humanitarian assistance, including life-saving disaster assistance, emergency food aid, and support to refugees throughout the region.
  • The United States and ASEAN benefit from far-reaching commercial and trade ties. ASEAN represents the world’s fourth-largest market, and the United States is ASEAN’s largest source of foreign direct investment.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. total trade in goods and services with ASEAN (except for Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar) totaled an estimated $505.8 billion in 2022.
  • The U.S.-ASEAN relationship is a partnership for prosperity, creating jobs on both sides of the Pacific.  More than 6,200 U.S. companies operate across ASEAN’s member states, employing nearly 1 million people, and all 50 U.S. states export to ASEAN, supporting more than 625,000 U.S. jobs.  In addition, over 50,000 students from Southeast Asia study in the U.S. each year.
  • ASEAN and the United States are working together to address pressing regional and global challenges.  The United States supports the rules-based order in Southeast Asia, and in close cooperation with our allies and partners, the United States promotes a free and open Indo-Pacific in which the freedoms of navigation and overflight and other internationally lawful uses of the sea related to these freedoms are enjoyed and respected by all states in accordance with international law.
  • Regarding the crisis in Myanmar, the United States calls on Myanmar’s military regime to cease the violence, allow unhindered humanitarian access, release all those unjustly detained, and restore Myanmar’s path to inclusive democracy.
  • The United States condemns Russia’s unprovoked, unjustified, and premeditated war against Ukraine, joins ASEAN in reaffirming our respect for sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity, and calls for compliance with international law, including the UN Charter, as well as respect for the purposes and principles of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia.
  • ASEAN and the United States continue to partner to advance respect for the rights of persons with disabilities.  The May 2022 U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit Joint Vision Statement reaffirmed our shared commitment to advance the full and equal participation and economic empowerment of persons with disabilities.  The United States looks forward to joining ASEAN member states at a planned High-Level Dialogue in Indonesia in summer 2023, and to exploring further technical assistance and exchange opportunities to support implementation of the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan.

Expanding Cyber, Digital, and Telecommunication Cooperation

  • ASEAN and the United States are working together on strengthening cooperation on cybersecurity issues.  In January, U.S. Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy Liesyl Franz co-chaired the U.S.-ASEAN Cyber Policy Dialogue, exchanging views with ASEAN member states on our respective domestic policies and ways we can work productively together on capacity building and promoting international cyber stability.  The Dialogue acknowledged the work that has been done in fostering greater regional cybersecurity cooperation and capacity building, as well as the importance of continued implementation of cyber confidence building measures to reduce the risk of misperception and escalation in cyberspace.  This includes efforts advanced through the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime, the ASEAN Digital Ministers’ Meeting, and the ASEAN Regional Forum Inter-Sessional Meeting on Security of and in the Use of Information and Communication Technologies.  The Dialogue also committed to increasing efforts on capacity building and regional cybersecurity cooperation.
  • We also see tremendous opportunity with regional centers such as the ASEAN-Singapore Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (ASCCE).  Under the auspices of the ASCCE, we held the U.S.-Singapore Third Country Training Program on Cybersecurity in February 2023, where we trained over 30 participants from the ASEAN region on national-level approaches to cybersecurity and the framework of responsible state behavior in cyberspace.
  • Through the ASEAN Digital Ministers’ Meeting and Digital Senior Officials Meeting, the Department of State’s Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy (CDP) identified a range of areas of cooperation to include in the ASEAN-US Digital Workplan 2023-2025 and work on 5G and Open Radio Access Networks (RAN), undersea cables, digital inclusion, data flows, online scams, and artificial intelligence.  CDP is preparing for two workshops focusing on 5G and Open RAN to take place in the region in the fall of 2023.  The United States is also continuing to engage ASEAN member states on undersea cables through the State Department funded CABLES program.

Maritime Security, Economy, Sustainability

  • ASEAN and the United States continue to work together to promote maritime security and combat transnational crime.  At the May 2022 U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit, the United States announced $60 million in new regional maritime security initiatives.  At the June 2023 ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC), we discussed ongoing and expanded U.S.-ASEAN cooperation to counter trafficking in persons, drug trafficking, terrorism, and violent extremism, as well as threats from wildlife trafficking, illegal logging and associated trade, and cyber criminals.
  • The United States works with ASEAN to address labor exploitation in the fishing sector with the $2.5 million ALFA project funded by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).  The ALFA project supported the adoption of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Declarations on the Placement and protection of Migrant Fishers and on the Protection of Migrant Workers and Family Members in Crisis Situations at the 42nd ASEAN Summit on May 10, 2023.  DOL’s ALFA project works closely with ASEAN’s Senior Labour Officials Meeting and supports ASEAN’s Labour Inspection Committee in Thailand with upcoming regional training for labor inspectors to counter forced labor in the context of trafficking in persons in the fishing sector.  The ALFA project includes a Regional Study on Labor Practices in the Fishing Sector and a Regional Mapping on Good Practices in Private Sector Engagement in Addressing Labor Exploitation in ASEAN.
  • USAID Sustainable Fish Asia (SuFiA) Technical Support promotes sustainable fisheries and marine biodiversity conservation in the Indo-Pacific and addresses gender inequity and forced labor concerns within regional seafood supply chains.  The activity works with the ASEAN Sectoral Working Group on Fisheries, providing technical support services and tools to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Upskilling, Education, Entrepreneurship 

  • USAID directly supports business owners and the workforce in ASEAN through skills training to accelerate economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and address the rising cost of living.  Since 2016, the U.S. government has been partnering with the U.S. private sector to provide free, online training to business owners and workers.  The ASEAN SME Academy, which USAID helped establish in partnership with the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, is a web-based training platform that offers more than 95 courses and 375 online resources.  Recently launched resources to strengthen small business recovery are available in four languages (English, Thai, Indonesian, and Vietnamese).
  • The U.S.-ASEAN Science, Technology, and Innovation Cooperation Program plans to launch its virtual talent mobility portal to provide upskilling opportunities to up to 50,000 participants from ASEAN countries.  The portal would offer online courses and training and certificate programs developed by U.S. universities, as well as other content including speakers from U.S. industry, think tanks, academics, non-government organizations, and government agencies.
  • USAID has partnered with ASEAN to develop the ASEAN Public Health Emergency Coordination System (APHECS).  This system will help ASEAN countries strengthen regional health security through improved coordination and communication to enable a swift and collective response to future public health emergencies.  The APHECS Framework was approved by the Senior Officials for Health Development in May 2023 and will become an integral part of ASEAN’s health security architecture.

Investing in Transformational Climate, Energy, Sustainability and Transportation Initiatives

  • USAID Mekong for the Future collaborates with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) to develop the ASEAN Environmental Rights Framework.  Mekong For the Future, a member of the working group, participated in AICHR’s inception workshop in July 2022 and a coordination meeting in September 2022, and plans to support drafting of the Framework in the third quarter of 2023.  The Framework will promote a right-based approach to sustainable development, accelerating regional progress on targets and commitments relating to climate change, human rights, sustainable development goals, and biodiversity conservation.
  • SERVIR Southeast Asia, a collaboration between USAID and NASA launched in January 2023, aims to scale up the use of satellite data and geospatial technologies in climate change mitigation and adaptation across the ASEAN region.  SERVIR Southeast Asia builds on the success of SERVIR-Mekong (2014-2022) to improve decision-making on regional climate challenges, including disaster preparedness and response, food security, water resource and land management, and air quality.
  • U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Dave Turk participated virtually in the second U.S.-ASEAN Energy Ministerial in September 2022.  The United States supports ASEAN’s energy goals, particularly in the key areas of energy security and resilience, renewable and emerging energy technologies, and energy market integration, through the U.S.-ASEAN Energy Cooperation Work Plan.
  • The United States is working with ASEAN to deliver a Climate Solutions Hub that will help ASEAN countries accelerate implementation of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and clean energy transition.  ASEAN can be a leader in clean and sustainable growth, leapfrogging to the next generation of clean energy solutions, and the United States looks forward to participating in the third-annual U.S.-ASEAN Energy Ministerial and the inaugural U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial on Environment and Climate Change in August 2023.
  • The U.S.-ASEAN Smart Cities Partnership (USASCP) is a whole-of-government engagement with the ASEAN Smart Cities Network to collaborate on issues in the water, transportation, and urban services sectors.  Additional USASCP programs include energy modelling, research and innovation through the U.S.-ASEAN university partnership, urban systems integration on agri-tech, among others.
  • The USAID Southeast Asia Smart Power Program (SPP) is an initiative to mobilize $2 billion in blended financing for clean energy infrastructure.  In their September 2022 meeting, the ASEAN Ministers of Energy welcomed SPP’s partnership framework with the ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) to support ASEAN clean energy priorities.  SPP support will enhance development of the ASEAN Power Grid (APG) to expand power trade and improve regional system reliability, as well as working on APAEC Program Areas for Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency and advanced energy systems.  USAID awarded ACE a $3 million grant in June 2023 as part of the partnership to increase the regional renewable energy share of the power mix to 23 percent and to increase the installed renewable energy capacity to 35 percent by 2025.  The U.S.-ASEAN Forest Future Initiative, announced during the U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit in May 2022, will host the ASEAN Nature Finance Innovation Roundtable in 2023 to mobilize additional finance that supports the long-term conservation, restoration, and sustainable management of critical ecosystems in Southeast Asia.
  • The Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs Annie Petsonk led U.S. participation at the Senior Transport Officials Dialogue hosted in Vientiane, Laos, in June 2023.  Since the ASEAN-U.S. Transportation Dialogue Partnership was formalized in June 2022, the United States and ASEAN have held 8 workshops with more than 800 participants and participated in 6 ASEAN Working Group Meetings.
  • In support of President Biden’s U.S.-ASEAN Electric Vehicle Initiative launched at the 2022 U.S.-ASEAN Summit, the Department of Transportation and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency held two electric vehicle workshops and began the ASEAN EV Infrastructure Market Analysis Study.  The United States continues to promote safe, sustainable, and resilient infrastructure through technical assistance and future senior officials’ level meetings.

Strengthening People-to-People Ties and Expanding Engagement on Gender

  • The Department of State is committed to engaging with ASEAN’s next generation of leaders through high school and university exchange programs, research grants, and professional development opportunities throughout ASEAN.  Since 1951, over 47,000 exchange participants from ASEAN member states have benefitted from U.S. government-funded programs sponsored through the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).  These programs include the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), Southeast Asia Youth Leadership Program, Fulbright, and flagship programs like the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) and TechGirls.
  • Programs sponsored by ECA provide both professional and academic exchange opportunities to emerging leaders in ASEAN.  In the past 10 years, prominent alumni of ECA programs include 17 current or former members of Parliament in the ASEAN region and 12 recipients of the International Women of Courage Award.
  • Starting this week, the YSEALI Academy at Fulbright University Vietnam is hosting a seminar on the regional impact of entrepreneurship for young professionals from ASEAN countries and Timor-Leste.  Throughout this conference, participants are exploring ways to use entrepreneurship to prioritize social and environmental impact alongside financial returns.
  • Looking forward, the Office of International Visitors will offer an IVLP project for ASEAN municipal leaders in March 2024 to explore how cities, municipalities, and communities in the United States promote economic growth while protecting the environment in ways that can be adapted and replicated in communities throughout Asia.  Discussions will include best practices in solid waste management, enforcement mechanisms for preventing and limiting pollution, and capacity-building and awareness-raising campaigns that have been effective in the United States.
  • The Department of State and Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) will inaugurate the first year of the U.S.-ASEAN Institute for Rising Leaders program, where 30 mid-career public service professionals will join Johns Hopkins SAIS annually for a multi-week leadership development program.  The first cohort will arrive in August 2023.
  • In fall 2023, the U.S. Mission to ASEAN will launch a tour for journalists from all 10 ASEAN countries and Timor-Leste.  Participants will travel to Washington, D.C., and other relevant sites for off-the-record briefings by USG officials from the Department of State, Department of Defense, and the National Security Council staff, as well as with lawmakers, NGOs, journalists, think-tank academics, and foreign officials.  Goals include providing journalists with a regional perspective of key issues and developing an understanding of USG media practices through engagement with a broad range of experts with varying opinions.
  • Under the U.S.-ASEAN Regional Development Cooperation Agreement, USAID works closely with ASEAN sectoral bodies to advance development cooperation in trade facilitation, the digital economy, science and technology, addressing non-traditional security challenges, good governance and human rights, and gender empowerment and mainstreaming.  In December 2022 USAID supported the ASEAN Committee for Women (ACW) and ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) to launch ASEAN’s first Regional Plan of Action on Women, Peace, and Security.
  • The inaugural U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment was held in September 2022 and co-chaired by USAID Administrator Samantha Power with nine ASEAN Ministers of Gender participating.  In 2023, USAID continues to follow through with implementation of the Ministerial Dialogue joint statement by supporting the work of the ASEAN Gender Mainstreaming Steering Committee, as well as supporting Indonesia’s organization of the July 5-7 ASEAN Women, Peace, and Security Summit: High Level Dialogue to advance the implementation of the Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security to support ASEAN efforts to enhance inclusive gender-responsive policies and programs across the region

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