Vice President Kamala Harris is attending the U.S.-ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia from September 5-7, to reaffirm the United States’ enduring commitment to Southeast Asia and ASEAN centrality. The Biden-Harris Administration’s 2024 budget requested an unprecedented $1.2 billion in economic, development, and security assistance for the nations of Southeast Asia, in addition to $90 million dedicated solely to engagement with ASEAN and efforts to strengthen ASEAN institutions. Building on the success of the 2022 U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit in Washington, DC, these resources are intended to support the robust implementation of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and ensure U.S.-ASEAN cooperation delivers concrete benefits for the people of Southeast Asia, the United States, and the broader Indo-Pacific.
At the 2022 U.S.-ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, the United States and ASEAN took the historic step of upgrading our relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP). To ensure this elevated partnership reaches its full potential, the leaders of ASEAN and the United States are announcing their intent to establish, through a public-private partnership, a U.S.-ASEAN Center in Washington, DC. The Center will serve as a key hub for ASEAN’s engagement with the United States. Subject to consultations between ASEAN and the United States, the Center’s future activities may include:
- Facilitating official U.S.-ASEAN engagements, and building deeper habits of cooperation between ASEAN and the full range of U.S. departments and agencies;
- Enhancing connectivity among ASEAN and the U.S. private sector, with particular attention to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as well as civil society;
- Arranging cultural and educational activities aimed at strengthening ties among the combined one billion people of the United States and ASEAN;
- Conducting research to support and elevate the substantive work of the U.S.-ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership; and
- Facilitating capacity-building programs that advance the shared objectives and vision of the United States and ASEAN.
Under the auspices of the U.S.-ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, President Biden and Vice President Harris have already overseen an unprecedented expansion in U.S.-ASEAN relations, marked by the launch of new ministerial dialogue processes on health, environment and climate, energy, transportation, and women’s empowerment, as well as elevated engagement within existing dialogue tracks on foreign affairs, economics, and defense – led on the U.S. side by Secretary Becerra, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Kerry and Administrator Regan, Secretary Granholm, Secretary Buttigieg, Administrator Power, Secretary Blinken, Ambassador Tai, and Secretary Austin, respectively. Additionally, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has now extended the U.S.-ASEAN Regional Development Cooperation Agreement to 2029, and the United States is rapidly scaling the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment in Southeast Asia. In the years to come, the United States and ASEAN will continue working together to institutionalize and expand cooperation in each of these important areas, in order to promote ASEAN as an “Epicentrum of Growth” and advance a free and open region that is increasingly connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient.
INCLUSIVE ECONOMIC GROWTH, THE INNOVATION ECONOMY, AND HIGH-QUALITY INFRASTRUCTURE
The Biden-Harris Administration continues to strengthen U.S. economic cooperation with Southeast Asia and ASEAN in pursuit of inclusive growth and broad-based prosperity. The United States is the largest source of foreign direct investment in Southeast Asia, and more than 6,200 U.S. businesses have contributed to a record $520.3 billion in total trade between the United States and the nations of ASEAN in 2022, creating 625,000 jobs in all 50 states and 1 million jobs throughout Southeast Asia.
In August 2023, U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Tai co-chaired a ministerial with ASEAN economic ministers, deepening cooperation on trade facilitation, good regulatory practices, the digital economy, and support for SMEs. Ministers also endorsed the 2023-2024 ASEAN-U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement and Expanded Economic Engagement Work Plan. In June 2023, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) co-chaired a U.S.-ASEAN Senior Officials Dialogue on Transportation in preparation for a U.S.-ASEAN transportation ministerial, deepening U.S.-ASEAN cooperation on transportation infrastructure and the development of a regional electric vehicle (EV) ecosystem. Key U.S.-ASEAN economic initiatives include:
- : At the ASEAN Indo-Pacific Forum in Jakarta, U.S. Trade and Development Agency Director Enoh Ebong is announcing new activities designed to leverage over $8 billion in financing across ASEAN to promote the development of sustainable infrastructure and regional connectivity. These initiatives catalyze $3 billion in climate financing that advances ASEAN’s net zero goals, and $5 billion in public and private financing for investment in digital infrastructure, transportation, healthcare, and smart cities in ASEAN countries.
- The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation is announcing nearly $600 million in new financing for private sector investments across Southeast Asia that will spur economic growth, advance financial inclusion, leverage technology to expand access to education and healthcare, and support food and energy security. This includes a $100 million loan portfolio guarantee to support lending to micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises in Indonesia and a $15 million equity investment to support the creation and growth of climate tech start-ups that improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions across Southeast Asia.
- Under the auspices of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, the United States launched the U.S.-ASEAN Platform for Infrastructure and Connectivity to support the development of high-quality and sustainable infrastructure across Southeast Asia, and to facilitate implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025.
- Through the U.S.-ASEAN Transportation Partnership, DOT has launched new air, land, and maritime transportation programs that promote safety, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, regional connectivity, and emerging transport technologies.
- The U.S.-ASEAN Smart Cities Partnership advances urban innovation, water management, food and energy security, green transportation, and the provision of critical urban services. On the margins of this year’s East Asia Summit, the United States is hosting a Symposium on Science, Technology, and Circular Innovation in Southeast Asia, convening 300 representatives of regional governments, private sector stakeholders, and university partners to advance urban sustainability, investment in the circular economy, and green business development.
- The U.S.-ASEAN Science, Technology, and Innovation Cooperation Program is on track to provide upskilling opportunities to 50,000 entrepreneurs, professionals, and students from ASEAN countries over three years.
- The United States and ASEAN have adopted a U.S.-ASEAN Digital Workplan 2023-2025, which is designed to support ASEAN’s digital development goals focusing on: 1) information and communications technology infrastructure, 2) data policy and regulation, and 3) digital connectivity and inclusion.
- USAID is supporting ASEAN Single Window in lowering barriers to trade, facilitating cross-border economic engagement, and adopting international best practices in customs technology.
- The new ASEAN SME Academy 2.0, jointly supported by ASEAN, USAID, and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, supports the growth of SMEs across Southeast Asia with over 95 courses and 375 online resources.
- Already, these meetings have catalyzed numerous new commercial partnerships and business deals between U.S. and Southeast Asian companies.
- The U.S. Transaction Advisory Fund (TAF) continues to provide best-in-class legal and consultative services to help ASEAN countries build quality, sustainable infrastructure in support of ASEAN’s development goals.
CLIMATE, ENERGY, AND ENVIRONMENT
In August 2023, the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change and the Environmental Protection Agency met with ASEAN counterparts for the first-ever ASEAN-U.S. Ministerial Dialogue on Environment and Climate Change. Ministers endorsed the ASEAN-U.S. Environment and Climate Work Plan and resolved to work together towards achieving ambitious climate and environmental goals consistent with limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Energy has co-chaired three U.S.-ASEAN ministerials on energy since 2021, reaffirming the United States as a partner of choice in the region and highlighting unprecedented U.S. investments to accelerate the clean energy transition as well as concrete U.S. initiatives to support ASEAN’s clean energy goals. Key U.S.-ASEAN initiatives on climate, energy, and environment include:
- The U.S.-ASEAN Electric Vehicle Initiative is accelerating ASEAN’s efforts to develop an integrated EV ecosystem in Southeast Asia, thereby enhancing the region’s connectivity while ensuring ASEAN nations can achieve ambitious emissions reductions targets.
- The USAID Southeast Asia Smart Power Program is investing in ASEAN’s clean energy transition. Most recently, it awarded the ASEAN Center for Energy a $3 million grant to enhance development of the ASEAN Power Grid for expanded regional power trade and system reliability.
- The U.S.-ASEAN Climate Solutions Hub was established to provide demand-driven technical assistance that supports ASEAN countries in accelerating the updating and implementation of their nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement, as well as their climate resilience strategies.
- The United States is supporting the ASEAN Center for Climate Change, including through technical exchanges with the United States’ premier climate experts.
- 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.
- The U.S.-ASEAN Forest Future Initiative is fighting deforestation and accelerating the regional transition to sustainable, climate-positive forest economies by working to mobilize $1 billion in capital investment across the region toward sustainable forestry, forest restoration, and responsible land use.
- Through the U.S.-ASEAN Alliance for Protected Area Conservation, the U.S. Department of the Interior, including the U.S. National Park Service, are collaborating with their ASEAN counterparts to expand conservation, reverse deforestation, and collaborate in the establishment, management, and networking of national park systems.
- , through the U.S. government and private sector, is partnering with ASEAN to accelerate the deployment of clean energy technologies including those related to solar, wind, and nuclear power; development of carbon capture, utilization, and storage; and strengthening of critical mineral supply chains, including through a 2022 trade mission that catalyzed important deals on the deployment of small modular reactors, biofuels, and fuel cell technology in the ASEAN region.
DEFENSE & MARITIME COOPERATION
In November 2022, Secretary Austin attended the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) Plus and an Informal ASEAN-U.S. Defense Ministers’ Meeting, where he reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to ASEAN centrality and a strong U.S.-ASEAN defense partnership in support of the U.S.-ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Key U.S.-ASEAN defense and maritime initiatives include:
- As a co-chair with Thailand of the ADMM Plus Experts’ Working Group on Maritime Security, the U.S. Department of Defense is supporting ASEAN’s efforts to advance regional capabilities to address shared maritime security challenges.
- Through the Emerging Defense Leaders Program and other initiatives, the U.S. Department of Defense intends to invest $10 million each year to support the next generation of civilian and uniformed defense leaders, providing unique training opportunities and building an alumni network that will facilitate long-term friendship and understanding across borders.
- ASEAN and the United States are partnering to counter illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, including through U.S. support for the ASEAN Sectoral Working Group on Fisheries and cooperative efforts to combat forced labor in the region’s fishing sector, including through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Addressing Labor Exploitation in Fishing in ASEAN (ALFA) initiative.
- The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is significantly expanding its partnerships in Southeast Asia, including by deploying an Indo-Pacific Support Cutter, which provides multinational crewing opportunities, conducts training missions, and participates in cooperative maritime engagements with the maritime law enforcement agencies of Southeast Asia. USCG has also established a Southeast Asia Training Team to provide expanded capacity-building for the region’s maritime law enforcement agencies.
HEALTH, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT
In September 2022, Administrator Power co-chaired the first-ever U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial Dialogue on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, strengthening cooperation on gender mainstreaming, women’s economic empowerment, the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda, and eliminating gender-based violence. Additionally, Secretary Becerra has co-chaired the U.S.-ASEAN health ministerial meeting, reaffirming our shared commitment to deepening health cooperation and supporting a robust recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Key U.S.-ASEAN initiatives on health, human rights, and women’s empowerment include:
- The United States has worked closely with ASEAN and its members to accelerate the recovery from COVID-19, donating more than 125 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Southeast Asian nations, in partnership with COVAX. The United States has also provided over $200 million in assistance to ASEAN members to support COVID-19 response and recovery.
- USAID has partnered with ASEAN to develop the ASEAN Public Health Emergency Cooperation System (APHECS), which is strengthening regional health security through improved regional coordination and communication. APHECS will enable a swift and effective collective response to future public health emergencies.
- In 2021, the United States launched the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Southeast Asia Regional Office in Hanoi, Vietnam. Since then, the CDC has supported a wide range of ASEAN public health initiatives, including through the ASEAN-U.S. Infection Prevention and Control Task Force. The CDC Regional Office is also providing epidemiology scholarships and strengthening public health mentorship networks, and enhancing ASEAN members’ laboratory readiness to diagnose COVID-19.
- USAID and the CDC are supporting the establishment of the ASEAN Center for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases by providing logistical and technical support to ASEAN in the areas of surveillance and response; health workforce development; laboratory systems; public health emergency management; infection prevention and control; antimicrobial resistance; border health & community mitigation; pandemic and vaccine preparedness planning.
- In support of the May 2023 ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on One Health, USAID supported ASEAN’s development of the ASEAN One Health Network, which is leveraging animal, environmental, and public health expertise across ASEAN.
- The United States provides comprehensive support for the ASEAN Women, Peace, and Security agenda. To that end, ASEAN partnered with USAID to develop the ASEAN Regional Plan of Action for Women, Peace, and Security – released in December 2022.
- USAID and ASEAN together support the ASEAN-U.S. Science Prize for Women, which empower the next generation of women leaders to pursue cutting edge research. We have also collaborated to develop new policy guidance for prioritizing women’s participation and leadership in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
- The U.S. Department of Commerce launched EMPOWER Asia, a women’s economic empowerment initiative, at the 2023 Trade Winds ASEAN business forum in Bangkok. EMPOWER Asia will help women-owned businesses from the United States and the Indo-Pacific region overcome digital trade barriers and leverage cross-border e-commerce to grow their businesses.
- The inaugural U.S.-ASEAN Dialogue on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to be held later this year, seeks to advance the human rights of persons with disabilities across Southeast Asia, and expand U.S. support to the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan on Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.