The United States-ASEAN Relationship
Secretary Blinken will travel to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, August 3-5, to participate in the foreign ministers’ meetings for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) -United States Ministerial Meeting, the 12th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and the 29th 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 the COVID-19 pandemic, economic cooperation, the fight against climate change, maritime issues, including in the South China Sea, the escalating crisis in Burma, and Russia’s unjustified, 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., May 12-13, that demonstrated the United States’ enduring commitment to ASEAN, recognized ASEAN’s central role in delivering sustainable solutions to the region’s most pressing challenges, and commemorated 45 years of U.S.-ASEAN relations.
The United States and ASEAN are Enduring Partners
- This year, the United States celebrates 45 years of U.S.-ASEAN partner relations.
- The United States has provided over $12.1 billion in development, economic, health, and security assistance to Southeast Asian allies and partners, including the members of ASEAN, since 2002. Over that same period, the United States has provided over $1.4 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, while U.S. goods and services trade with ASEAN totaled an estimated $441.7 billion in 2021. More than 6,200 U.S. companies operate within ASEAN, and in 2020, 630,000 U.S. travelers spent more than $1.3 billion in Southeast Asia.
- As a steadfast partner, the United States looks forward to establishing a U.S.-ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership at the U.S.-ASEAN Summit in November. This expanded engagement will build upon our longstanding relationship and catalyze enhanced collaboration with ASEAN, including through expanded ministerial-level engagement in the areas of climate, energy, transportation, women’s empowerment, and health.
- The United States and ASEAN are working together to address pressing regional and global challenges. The United States supports the international rules-based order in the South China Sea, 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 are enjoyed and respected by all states in accordance with international law. Regarding the crisis in Burma, the United States calls on the Burmese regime to cease the violence, release all those unjustly detained, restore Burma’s path to inclusive democracy, and adhere to its commitments under ASEAN’s Five Point Consensus. 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 the UN Charter, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, and international law.
- The United States and ASEAN continue to work together to promote maritime security and combat transnational crime. At the U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit, the United States announced $60 million in new regional maritime security initiatives, including the placement of a U.S. Coast Guard regional training team in Southeast Asia. At the July 20 ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting on Transnational Crime, we discussed this and other ongoing U.S.-ASEAN cooperation to counter drug trafficking, terrorism, and violent extremism, as well as threats from wildlife trafficking, illegal logging, and cyber criminals. The United States and ASEAN are also working to build regional capacity and advance ASEAN’s Bali Work Plan to Prevent and Counter Violent Extremism (P/CVE) through efforts like the upcoming Second ASEAN-U.S. Workshop on P/CVE in Bali.
- Looking to the future, the United States strongly supports ASEAN’s science, technology, and innovation development. In June this year, Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Monica Medina co-chaired the 10th ASEAN-U.S. Consultation on Science and Technology with the Chair of the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology and Innovation. In that meeting, the United States highlighted new and ongoing cooperation initiatives like the annual Science Prize for Women, sponsored in part by Underwriters Laboratories, ASEAN, and the United States. One new initiative, the $3.5 million Science, Technology, and Innovation Cooperation Program, will support research cooperation and business innovation, increase academic exchanges, and facilitate connections between public and private laboratories, academia, policy makers, industries, and business associations in the United States and ASEAN.
Investing in Climate, Energy, and Transportation Initiatives Across ASEAN
- The U.S.-ASEAN Smart Cities Partnership engages with 26 U.S. and ASEAN cities that partner to collaborate on issues in the water, transportation, and urban services sectors. Prominent city partnerships include the Water Smart Engagements program between U.S. and ASEAN cities that bring together city governments, water districts, and utilities providers to expand access to clean water. Additionally, a Department of Transportation peer-to-peer program focuses on developing collaborative policy and technology solutions that support mobility innovations in ASEAN and the United States. Both programs are two-way exchanges that allow these cities to share best practices to advance the water and transportation sectors in both the United States and ASEAN.
- Through the U.S.-ASEAN Smart Cities Partnership’s new Smart Cities Business Innovation Fund (BIF), the United States is investing in grassroots sustainable solutions to urban challenges that support climate action in ASEAN. BIF launched its first iteration this year and is providing grants of up to $300,000 for net zero/low carbon solutions to documented urban problems. Winning proposals include an edible-grade seaweed packaging company aimed at reducing single-use plastic consumption, a company that gathers and recycles waste solar panels to reduce e-waste, and an initiative that will create community gardens in ASEAN schools to increase access to urban green spaces while teaching students about nutrition and non-communicable diseases and environmental stewardship.
- At the first U.S.-ASEAN Senior Transport Officials Dialogue hosted in Bali, Indonesia, in June 2022, the Department of Transportation launched the U.S.-ASEAN Transportation Dialogue Partnership and adopted a Four-Year Work Plan (2022-2025) that emphasizes our joint commitment to advancing transportation solutions. The Work Plan includes new air, land, and maritime transportation programs that promote safety, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, regional connectivity, and emerging transport technologies. The United States will continue to advance sustainable transportation and climate solutions at the senior officials and, ultimately, the ministerial levels.
- In September 2021, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm participated in the inaugural ASEAN-U.S. Energy Ministerial. The Department of State’s Bureau of Energy Resources led U.S. participation in the virtual U.S.-ASEAN Senior Energy Officials Dialogue held in June 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 ASEAN-U.S. Energy Cooperation Work Plan. The United States looks forward to furthering cooperation at the next ASEAN-U.S. Energy Ministerial in September 2022.
- 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.
Strong People-to-People Ties and Expanded Engagement on Gender and Health Strengthen Our Partnership and Benefit the ASEAN Region
- The Department of State is committed to engaging with ASEAN’s next generation of leaders through university exchange programs, research grants, and professional development opportunities throughout ASEAN. Since 1951, over 33,000 exchange participants from ASEAN member states have benefitted from U.S. government-funded programs sponsored through the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). These programs include the International Visitors Leadership Program, Fulbright, and the flagship Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI).
- 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 28 current or former members of Parliament in the ASEAN region and 10 recipients of the International Women of Courage Award.
- Approximately 50,000 students from Southeast Asian study in the United States each year. Additionally, since 1961, more than 31,000 citizens of ASEAN member states have traveled to the United States through ECA-facilitated BridgeUSA exchange programs such as summer work travel, au pair, and others. The United States also hosts 51 American Spaces throughout the ASEAN region, where members of the public are invited to join U.S. embassy-hosted programs on topics such as media literacy, entrepreneurship, STEM, and American culture, society, and values.
- Many U.S.-funded exchanges support gender equity and women’s empowerment. The YSEALI Leadership Academy, an annual regional workshop for emerging female leaders has offered mentoring, leadership, and professional skills development to more than 250 members and covers topics ranging from public healthcare to human rights advocacy. In six ASEAN member countries, the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) gives enterprising women the knowledge, networks, and access they need to launch and scale successful businesses.
- Through two important projects, the ASEAN- U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Inclusive Growth in ASEAN through Innovation, Trade, and E-Commerce (IGNITE) and ASEAN – USAID Partnership for Regional Optimization Within the Political-Security and Socio-Cultural Communities (PROSPECT), the United States works with ASEAN to include gender mainstreaming in policies under the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and to address gender issues with various ASEAN entities. For example, USAID is working with the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network (AWEN) to improve representation of women in ASEAN, especially in the business sector.
- The first ASEAN-U.S. Ministerial on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment will take place in September 2022. USAID Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Jamille Bigio co-chaired a July 28 Senior Official’s Meeting, with remarks from the White House Gender Policy Council and the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues.
- To help advance the empowerment of women and girls and bridge gender equity gaps, USAID has partnered with the ASEAN Committee for Women (ACW) and ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) to reach several key regional milestones in strengthening gender equality, women’s empowerment, and mobilizing action on ASEAN commitments to implement the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda for the region. In January 2022, USAID supported ACW and ACWC to launch its first ASEAN Gender Mainstreaming Strategic Framework to support ASEAN efforts to enhance inclusive gender-responsive policies and programs across the region.
- The United States is committed to leading the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and to partnering with ASEAN to bolster global health security. The United States is proud to have provided over $200 million in COVID-19 assistance, and to have donated, in partnership with COVAX or bilaterally, over 116 million doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines in Southeast Asia. This is in addition to years of partnership working with ASEAN members to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats.
- U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra attended the U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Bali, Indonesia, in May 2022. This expanded engagement allows the United States and ASEAN to partner on key priorities related to global health security and health care delivery such as surveillance, workforce, and primary health care. The United States looks forward to continuing to build back a healthier world together.