U.S. signals strong commitment to ASEAN

The United States is ASEAN’s strategic partner and remains steadfast in its support for ASEAN-centered regional architecture at the heart of the Indo-Pacific and welcomes the strong principles upon which it is based – inclusivity, openness, and a region based on rule of law, good governance, and respect for international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. These principles are mirrored in the U.S. vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States is committed to working with ASEAN under the Outlook to advance peace, prosperity, and security in the Indo-Pacific.

Promoting maritime cooperation for a secure Indo-Pacific

More than US$3.5 trillion in trade transits Indo-Pacific waters annually. These waters also provide livelihoods for millions of people. In order to create a more secure region, the United States seeks to improve maritime cooperation and uphold international law and standards to resolve geopolitical challenges, including in the South China Sea. ASEAN and the United States are working together to promote the sustainable development of maritime resources.

ASEAN and the United States focus on improving maritime domain awareness (MDA) and collaborating on information-sharing best practices, joint and interagency operations, multinational cooperation using the U.S. Department of Transportation’s SeaVision application, advances in space-based MDA technology, country briefs, and case studies.

The United States supported a regional study on trafficking and forced labor and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in Southeast Asia, helping ASEAN countries strengthen worker protection and improve regulation in the commercial fishing sector.

The United States supports global partners developing an addendum to the New York Memorandum on Good Practices for Interdicting Terrorist Travel with additional recommended good practices for government and private sector partners to address and prevent potential terrorist misuse of the maritime sector.

The U.S.-ASEAN Smart Cities Partnership (USASCP) together with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are collaborating with Singapore on a Third Country Training Program entitled “Addressing Plastic Pollution through Integrated Waste Management Strategies and Circular Economy Principles,” to be held in September 2021.

Building connectivity

The United States is working closely with ASEAN to promote infrastructure and energy, digital, and people-to-people connectivity to unleash the full potential of our combined one billion people. Support for connectivity, including in the important Mekong region, promotes a more prosperous, democratic, rights-respecting, and peaceful tomorrow throughout the Indo-Pacific.

The Young Southeast Asia Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), through its more than 150,000 members of the YSEALI Network and more than 6,000 alumni of YSEALI programs, is strengthening people-to-people ties between the United States and Southeast Asia by engaging young leaders, promoting human capital development, and cultivating a more cohesive identity in the region.

The Billion Futures Program advances U.S. government and private-sector human capital development efforts and people-to-people engagement, embodying the limitless range of connections between the combined one billion people of the United States and ASEAN member nations. It offers opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students from ASEAN countries and Timor-Leste to attend U.S. universities.

Under the Billion Futures Scholars Program, the United States is proud to support the next generation of ASEAN leaders by providing scholarship opportunities for 35 Fulbright students and 15 undergraduate students in the fall of 2021, as well as 50 undergraduate students in the spring of 2022.

The Indo-Pacific Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminar (TIES) will strengthen collaboration on crisis management by bringing together 60 youth alumni leaders from the Indo-Pacific and the United States in early 2022.

The U.S.-ASEAN Connect Digital Economy Series informs ASEAN governments, businesses, and publics of U.S. best practices in ICT fields including e-commerce, fintech, and cybersecurity, among others. The Series is currently supporting two ASEAN studies: the ASEAN Digital Integration Index, and the E-Payments Readiness Index. It has hosted two events so far in 2021 – on Copyright Protection in the Digital Environment and on Empowering SMEs to Protect Brands Online – and is planning additional events on the digitalization of energy and on artificial intelligence in the coming months.

As part of the USAID-ASEAN Regional Development Cooperation Agreement for 2020-2025, the U.S. government supports ASEAN’s Master Plan for Connectivity 2025 in the areas of digital innovation, seamless logistics, and regulatory excellence.

Technical cooperation with ASEAN fosters people-to-people connections through the ASEAN Science Prize for Women and the ASEAN Youth Social Journalism and Youth Video contests, which promote creative solutions and action on pressing issues.

The U.S. government is providing $2 million to support the implementation of the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan 2025: Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This plan is designed to mainstream the rights of persons with disabilities across all three pillars of the ASEAN Community and help develop inclusive, rights-respecting societies. The U.S government has provided more than $170 million to improve the lives of persons with disabilities in ASEAN since 1989.

Through the Mekong-U.S. Partnership (MUSP), the United States is partnering with Mekong region countries on solutions to emerging challenges, including transboundary resource management, regional economic connectivity, human capital development, transnational crime, and non-traditional security issues. From fiscal year 2009 to 2021, the U.S. government has provided over $4.3 billion in bilateral and regional assistance to the five Mekong partner countries.

The MUSP Track 1.5 Policy Dialogue Series convenes experts from Mekong governments, non-governmental organizations, civil society, academia, business, and other relevant policy practitioners and stakeholders committed to supporting sustainable prosperity and autonomy among Mekong states.

The Japan-U.S.-Mekong Power Partnership (JUMPP) aligns U.S. and Japanese efforts to develop regional electricity grids in the Mekong subregion with an initial United States commitment of $29.5 million.

USAID Mekong Safeguards provides policy makers, government regulators, financiers, and contractors with information and tools to apply environmental, social, and governance standards for infrastructure development in the Mekong subregion.

Achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals

All ten ASEAN countries are signatories to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The United States has built its credibility as a trusted partner for technical assistance on the most pressing development issues, and is helping ASEAN countries meet the 17 SDGs through a range of development programs and other U.S.-ASEAN partnership agreements.

The U.S.-ASEAN Connect Green Economy Series advances U.S. environmental priorities, promotes internationally recognized best practices, and encourages greater data collection and dissemination through targeted events featuring public and private sector partners on sustainable development.

The U.S.-ASEAN Smart Cities Partnership (USASCP) harnesses U.S. public and private sector expertise to collaborate with the 26 ASEAN Smart Cities Network participating cities. The Partnership has invested $10 million in 20 projects to improve the delivery of critical urban services, including water, transport, energy, and health, as well to promote urban innovation and research and development to address city challenges in a sustainable manner.

YSEALI Seeds for the Future supports young Southeast Asian leaders’ innovative ideas for civic engagement, economic empowerment, education, and environmental issues through small grant funding.

The United States is partnering with Australia and Japan to establish the Blue Dot Network, a certification mechanism that will provide a globally recognized seal of approval for quality infrastructure projects.

The United States supports micro, small and medium enterprises and women entrepreneurs through the Women Entrepreneurs Amplifying Ventures and Economies (WEAVE) project WEAVE promotes economic empowerment of women entrepreneurs in Indonesia and Vietnam by building their digital skills and improving business practices through a phased “learning journey” for different stages of their businesses’ development.

To promote gender equality, the United States supports ASEAN’s Women, Peace and Security (WPS) study and is helping design ASEAN’s Regional Plan of Action to implement the WPS agenda, as well as the ASEAN Gender Mainstreaming Strategic Framework, to operationalize commitments to gender equality and mainstreaming across the region.

Advancing partnerships in economic cooperation

The United States supports ASEAN’s response to and recovery from COVID-19. We are committed to the prosperity of the region, as we have been for decades. In 2019, trade in goods and services between the United States and ASEAN exceeded $358 billion. ASEAN collectively is the United States’ fourth-largest trading partner. When one country prospers, we all prosper. We know that economic development leads to a more peaceful and secure region.

To support economic recovery from the impact of COVID-19, USAID IGNITE has revamped the SME Academy in partnership with the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council. USAID is expanding the number of languages available to access training material, and the renewed SME Academy will include a dedicated COVID-19 section featuring relevant courses, webinars, and other resources that will help businesses recover and thrive post-pandemic.

Through the Department of State and USAID’s COVID-19 Private Sector Engagement & Partnership Fund, the Department is supporting public-private partnerships to equip businesses in ASEAN member countries with skills to accelerate the safe resumption, continuation, or adaptation of business operations and to put in place plans and processes to ensure readiness and responsiveness to future pandemics. This $1 million investment will leverage $6 million in private sector support.

For over 15 years, the U.S. has worked with ASEAN and ASEAN Member States to implement the ASEAN Single Window (ASW) automated customs clearance, to help enable and grow trade in Southeast Asia through the electronic exchange of cargo clearance data. USAID, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service are stepping up efforts to facilitate a U.S. link to the ASW, to increase US-ASEAN commercial ties by expediting trade through lower transaction costs and reduced opportunities for fraud and corruption.

The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation has already invested over $1 billion dollars to support projects in ASEAN countries and is poised to greatly expand its support, finding investment opportunities with the private sector to solve development challenges, especially in areas of healthcare, ICT, inclusive growth, energy, and climate-related investments.

U.S.-ASEAN Connect and USAID support the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Electronic Commerce to develop the ASEAN Digital Integration Index. The Index measures implementation of the ASEAN Digital Integration Framework and identifies areas where ASEAN member states can improve data-driven policies.

Since 2000, overall energy demand in Southeast Asia has grown by more than 80 percent, and the United States is committed to helping ASEAN secure a strong energy future. Through Asia EDGE we are continuing our work to advance market-driven energy sector transformation in ASEAN to improve the performance of energy utilities, increase deployment of advanced energy systems, and adopt transparent energy procurement practices.

Since 2009, the Export–Import Bank of the United States has authorized support for over $4.6 billion of U.S. exports to ASEAN countries in an array of sectors, including infrastructure, transportation and water sanitation.

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