The realities and possibilities of the United States—Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) relationship will be discussed today in San Francisco at a day-long conference co-sponsored by the US-ASEAN Business Council and the California Chamber of Commerce.
Speakers at Asia’s Best Kept Secret: The ASEAN Economic Community will include senior government officials from the United States and ASEAN, as well as business and academic leaders from across the region.
Confirmed speakers include U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN Nina Hachigian, Founder & CEO of AirAsia Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, ASEAN economic ministers and officials from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, as well as Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
In recognition of ASEAN’s importance, President Barack Obama invited the 10 ASEAN heads of state to join him for a US-ASEAN Leaders Summit in Rancho Mirage, California on February 15 and 16. This landmark gathering was the first time that the leaders of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia have held a stand-alone meeting in the United States.
Obama and ASEAN leaders spent Monday and Tuesday discussing economic and regional security issues. The Associated Press noted that since becoming president, Obama has made numerous trips to Asia-Pacific countries as part of his policy “pivot” toward the region, with the goal of reassuring allies unnerved by China’s assertive presence there while also reaping economic gains for the U.S.
ASEAN is the United States’ fourth largest trading partner with two-way trade reaching $215 billion in 2014, supporting more than 370,000 U.S. jobs. ASEAN also holds more U.S. foreign direct investment than India, China and Japan combined.
ASEAN was founded in 1967 “to strengthen further the existing bonds of regional solidarity and cooperation.” From the original five member countries, ASEAN has grown to 10 members covering more than 1.7 million square miles—more than half the size of the continental United States—and a population of 626 million with an economy valued at $2.4 trillion.
The ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) lays out the key principles of noninterference and cooperative dispute resolution for members. The United States acceded to the TAC in 2009, enabling it to participate in the East Asia Summit.
The ASEAN Economic Community officially launched December 31, 2015, linking together the 10 nations and more than 625 million consumers of ASEAN into a single market and production base. While more work remains to be done to complete ASEAN’s ambitious goals, progress forges ahead on plans for the next 10 years.
Staff Contact: Susanne T. Stirling