U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting
Today, Secretary Kerry led the United States’ delegation to the U.S.–ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The United States has been an ASEAN partner for nearly 40 years and this meeting continues high-level engagement by the U.S. Secretary of State with the foreign ministers of the ten ASEAN Member States through open and constructive discussions. The United States remains deeply committed to close collaboration with ASEAN. Secretary Kerry highlighted activities the United States and ASEAN have jointly undertaken across ASEAN’s economic, political-security, and socio-cultural pillars. These activities include support for the ASEAN Economic Community and programs to strengthen people-to-people ties like the Young Southeast Leaders Initiative. He emphasized the need for sustainable growth and the importance of a rules based system so that countries can work together to address regional challenges like climate change, human trafficking, and marine conservation.
The ministers expressed appreciation for the United States’ deep commitment to the region and welcomed the ASEAN-U.S. Plan of Action 2016–2020.
Supporting Economic Integration
As ASEAN’s largest foreign investor, the United States is helping ASEAN members realize the vision of an ASEAN Economic Community that allows free movement of goods, services, labor, and capital. The United States is committed to this effort by providing assistance in areas including trade facilitation, standards harmonization, development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and viable internet economics. The United States has supported the implementation of the ASEAN Single Window, a customs facilitation tool, with technical and legal assistance. The United States has trained the leaders of SMEs through a flagship partnership between USAID and the U.S.–ASEAN Business Council, benefitting over 3,500 SME owners. We are partnering with ASEAN’s telecommunications officials and businesses to promote internet connectivity, mainly in rural and other underserved areas, as well as greater use of eCommerce, particularly by SMEs. This year, we are launching a series of workshops focused on the nexus between trade and the environment, and an Internet Economy Dialogue with ASEAN’s Telecommunications policy body. The United States and ASEAN are also developing a robust U.S.–ASEAN Energy Work Plan 2016–2020 focused on increasing efficiency, renewable resources, and improving ASEAN’s electric grid.
Expanding Maritime Cooperation
The people of ASEAN depend on the ocean for the food they eat, the air they breathe and their livelihoods. The United States supports sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, including helping ASEAN to set up a public-private body to accelerate adoption of better aquaculture and fisheries management. Tomorrow, Secretary Kerry will announce a new Oceans and Fisheries Partnership that strengthens regional cooperation to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and conserve marine biodiversity in the region. The United States also supports maritime security and awareness through training, workshops, and consultations including through the ASEAN Regional Forum, Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum, and ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus.
Cultivating the Emerging Leaders of ASEAN
Youth represents 65 percent of ASEAN’s population. We are developing a regional network for ASEAN youth to collaborate on solving common challenges, creating new opportunities, and helping to build an ASEAN identity. For example, the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) was launched by President Obama in December 2013 and now engages over 35,000 participants aged 18–35 years. It provides training, networking opportunities, and a platform to discuss their generation’s greatest challenges. In June, the President met with 55 YSEALI Professional Fellows and 20 YSEALI Academic Fellows at the White House. The Fulbright U.S.–ASEAN Visiting Scholar Initiative awards scholarships for up to four months of research in the United States on issues central to the U.S.–ASEAN relationship and complements the 700 Fulbright scholarships between the United States and ASEAN Member States awarded annually. The ASEAN–U.S. Science and Technology Fellows Program supports ASEAN early-career scientists to work for one year in ministries in their home countries to increase science-based policymaking. With U.S. support, the ASEAN Youth Volunteer Program (AYVP) is mobilizing young volunteers to develop innovative solutions to social, cultural, economic, and environmental challenges.
Promoting Opportunity for Women in ASEAN
Research shows that the more girls and women are educated and join the workforce, the more economies grow, infant mortality falls, and communities improve. The United States supports the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) by strengthening ACWC as an institution, supporting the development of a network of social service agencies, and helping to harmonize regional approaches to addressing violence against women and children. The United States is supporting women entrepreneurs in partnership with the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network (AWEN). For example, we are supporting majority women-owned enterprises, women entrepreneurs and women artisans in Southeast Asia who develop products and services under fair-employment and fair-trade conditions. Known as “GREAT Women in ASEAN,” this initiative will help companies grow to reach new markets, and to take advantage of the ASEAN Economic Community’s regional platform. We are collaborating with the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology (COST) to award an annual ASEAN-U.S. Science Prize for Women.
Addressing Transnational Challenges
The United States works with ASEAN to address 21st century challenges that cross borders.
The U.S.-ASEAN Joint Statement on Climate Change demonstrates our shared commitment to address this global issue. We have long been a supporter of the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN), helping to reduce consumer demand, strengthen law enforcement, and promote regional cooperation. The United States provided training for about 4,000 law enforcement officials and support for anti-wildlife trafficking efforts which led to the confiscation of wildlife worth about $90 million on the black market, and to the arrests of 1,332 suspects. The United States also helped train 30,000 ASEAN individuals in natural resources management and biodiversity conservation over the last five years.
The United States supports a victim-centered approach to combatting trafficking in persons and is working with ASEAN to harmonize domestic trafficking-in-persons laws throughout the region. We are engaging with ASEAN to counter violent extremism and terrorism, and to provide support for the victims of terrorism. The International Law Enforcement Academies (ILEA) Bangkok has trained over 3,000 ASEAN officers since 2012. The curriculum is geared to help the civilian criminal justice sector address a variety of transnational threats such as organized crime, trafficking in persons, wildlife trafficking, and corruption, in addition to counterterrorism.
The United States works with ASEAN’s civilian and military authorities to improve peacekeeping and the legacy of landmines and unexploded military ordnance. The United States also works closely with ASEAN governments’ disaster management authorities and the ASEAN Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster response coordination in support of the ‘One ASEAN, One Response’ initiative.