Today, at the U.S.-ASEAN Leaders Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, President Obama and Leaders of the ten ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) states welcomed the launch of the “U.S.-ASEAN Expanded Economic Engagement” (E3) initiative – a new framework for economic cooperation designed to expand trade and investment ties between the United States and ASEAN, creating new business opportunities and jobs in all eleven countries. E3 identifies specific cooperative activities to facilitate U.S.-ASEAN trade and investment, increase efficiency and competitiveness of trade flows and supply chains throughout ASEAN, and build greater awareness of the commercial opportunities that the growing U.S.-ASEAN economic relationship presents. Furthermore, by working together on these E3 initiatives, many of which correspond to specific issues addressed in trade agreements, the United States and ASEAN will lay the groundwork for ASEAN countries to prepare to join high-standard trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement that the United States is currently negotiating with ten countries in Asia and the Western Hemisphere.
E3 will begin with a set of concrete joint activities that will expand trade and investment:
• negotiation of a U.S.-ASEAN trade facilitation agreement, including simplified customs procedures and increased transparency of customs administration;
• joint development of Information and Communications Technology principles, to guide policymakers on issues like cross-border information flows, localization requirements, and the role of regulatory bodies.
• joint development of Investment Principles; principles would address essential elements of investment policies, including market access, non-discrimination, investor protections, transparency, and responsible business conduct.
• additional work on standards development and practices; Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SMEs); and trade and the environment.
Joint work under E3 will be further reinforced by USAID’s trade facilitation capacity-building assistance to the ASEAN members. E3 will also help ASEAN countries integrate their markets further as ASEAN seeks to build an ASEAN Economic Community by 2015.
With a population of approximately 620 million and a combined GDP of over $2.2 trillion, ASEAN is the United States’ fourth largest export Market and fifth largest trade partner overall (2011). ASEAN’s continued rapid economic development creates opportunities for U.S. exports. Currently four members of ASEAN (Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam) are participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiation.