The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 and its implementation as guided by the AEC Blueprint 2025 was a crucial initiative to integrate ten ASEAN Member States (AMS) into a single market and production base. Within a decade, the regional gross domestic product (GDP) of ASEAN has more than doubled from US$1.3 trillion in 2007 to US$2.8 trillion in 2017 with a collective market of more than 640 million consumers, a young demographic and a growing middle class. ASEAN is the sixth largest economy in the world and is projected to jump to the fourth spot in 2030.
The United States is the largest investor in Southeast Asia. American companies have invested more than Chinese, Japanese, and Korean companies combined. U.S. companies create millions of jobs in Southeast Asia and in the United States. They bring technology, train local workers, and make long-term commitments to local communities. The United States supports the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) through several programs:
- USASEAN Connect, established in 2006, is a strategic, unifying framework for the United States’ growing economic cooperation with ASEAN. Connect helps bring together the resources and expertise of the U.S. government and private sector for a cohesive and coordinated approach to economic engagement with ASEAN. Connect supports ASEAN’s efforts to strengthen the ASEAN Economic Community and U.S. efforts to enhance business opportunities in the region through programming and policy support to increase trade and economic development. Connect focuses on increasing opportunities in the energy sector, building a free and open digital economy, facilitating two-way trade, support for small and medium sized enterprises, and encouraging young innovators and entrepreneurs.
- Since 2008, through ASEAN Connectivity through Trade and Investment (ACTI), the United States has helped implement the ASEAN Single Window (ASW) to facilitate the seamless trade and movement of goods across borders. ASW is now in live operation in five ASEAN Member States (AMS) and will facilitate within ASEAN. The operationalization of the ASEAN-wide Self-Certification Scheme will reduce costs and time of customs clearance. In 2018 USAID ACTI has reached its final project implementation and continued by ASEAN-USAID Inclusive Growth in ASEAN Through Innovation, Trade and E-Commerce (ASEAN-USAID IGNITE). The program aims to support ASEAN to achieve the following objectives:
1. Harmonized, transparent, internationally-accepted standards, rules, and procedures known to facilitate the cross-border movement of goods and services expanded while reducing non-tariff barriers to trade.
2. Improved environment for increasing the availability within and among AMS of relevant, affordable, and secure digitally-enabled services that reflect international standards and practices and facilitate e-commerce, especially for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
3. Enabling environment strengthened that provides incentives for using science, technology, and innovation to drive open and inclusive economic growth.
- In November 2018, ASEAN Smart Cities Network was established during Singapore ASEAN Chairmanship then continued by Thailand chairmanship. The United States has recently established US ASEAN Smart Cities Partnerships focusing on capacity building and benchmarking study to smart cities initiatives in the United States. ASEAN Integration Monitoring Directorate at ASEAN Secretariat will collaborate with IGNITE on provision of technical support on this initiative.
- We are partnering with ASEAN’s telecommunications officials and businesses to promote Internet connectivity, mainly in rural and other undeserved areas, as well as greater use of ecommerce, particularly for SMEs. The U.S. has trained small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through a flagship partnership between USAID and the U.S. – ASEAN Business Council. Over 3,500 SMEs owners have benefited.
- In partnership with ASEAN energy officials, we developed a robust, five year U.S.-ASEAN Energy Work Plan with activities focused on increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy resources, as well as improving ASEAN’s electric grid.