On November 19, 2012, President Obama met with the leaders of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) to deepen our diplomatic, economic, security, and people-to-people ties with the key Asian multilateral organization. With a population of approximately 620 million and a combined GDP of over $2.2 trillion, ASEAN is the United States’ fourth largest export market, includes two treaty allies, one of our closest security partners, several emerging regional powers, and sits astride some of the world’s most important trading routes and sea lines of communication.
Recognizing the importance of enhancing U.S.-ASEAN ties, the Leaders agreed to institutionalize the Leaders Meeting to an annual Summit as a further step towards raising the U.S.-ASEAN partnership to a strategic level. The Leaders welcomed the Final Report from the U.S.-ASEAN Eminent Persons Group, and incorporated the recommendations as a road map to implementing the five-year ASEAN-U.S. Plan of Action, which was adopted at the 2011 U.S.-ASEAN Leaders Meeting.
The United States and ASEAN welcomed the launch of the U.S.-ASEAN Expanded Economic Engagement (E3) initiative – a new framework for economic cooperation designed to expand trade and investment ties between the United States and ASEAN, creating new business opportunities and jobs in all eleven countries.
See U.S.-ASEAN Expanded Economic Engagement (E3) Initiative Fact Sheet
Leaders welcomed additional steps to improve economic relations, including Secretary of State Clinton’s participation in the first-ever U.S.-ASEAN Business Forum in July in Siem Reap, Cambodia, which brought together government and private sector leaders to further economic engagement, integration, and opportunities.
Leaders welcomed the two U.S. Trade and Development Agency U.S.-ASEAN Connectivity Cooperation Initiative events held this year on disaster reduction and recovery and smart grid technology, bringing together the public and private sector from throughout the ASEAN region.
Leaders endorsed the U.S.-ASEAN Innovation in Science through Partners in Regional Engagement (INSPIRE) initiative to enhance science and technology (S&T) cooperation between the United States and ASEAN. Designed to complement bilateral science, technology and health cooperation which the United States has already established with individual ASEAN countries, INSPIRE will strengthen our collective approach to achieving important S&T, disaster preparedness, and health objectives and deepen ties between ASEAN and U.S. scientific communities.
Leaders discussed the importance of building the role and influence of the East Asia Summit so that it can effectively address pressing political and strategic issues in the region. Leaders discussed the importance of putting mechanisms and processes in place to peacefully manage disputes over competing claims in the South China Sea. In this context, they expressed support for the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Statement on “Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea” and called for early conclusion of a Regional Code of Conduct.
The United States announced the creation of the Expanded ASEAN Seafarer’s Training (EAST) program to improve counter-piracy training and education in the region. The ASEAN region is home to over half of the world’s seafaring workers. The program, administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration, will be expanded from its current pilot phase working with the Philippines.
To further enhance cooperation confronting the shared challenge of piracy, the United States announced its intention to join the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia (ReCAAP). ReCAAP is a first of its kind regional multilateral agreement between 18 countries to facilitate the dissemination of piracy-related information.
The United States launched the ASEAN Youth Volunteers Program and sponsored the ASEAN Commission on Women and Children visit to the United States this past April to connect with U.S. civil society groups to share best practices.
The United States committed to enhancing its collaboration with ASEAN Member States in addressing human trafficking, to include support for efforts to harmonize legal frameworks in defining and prohibiting human trafficking, increase cross-border joint investigation, and build capacity for a standardized response to the needs of trafficking victims.
Leaders welcomed the implementation ofthe United States Partnership with ASEAN on Brunei-U.S. English Language Enrichment Project and the deployment of the first group of 60 students to Hawaii’s East-West Center and Universiti Brunei Darussalam. This ambitious, five-year, $25 million initiative, supported by the governments of Brunei and the United States with the East-West Center in Hawaii as an implementing coordinator, reflects a commitment to help unify the diverse members of ASEAN, improve English-language capacity, and advance educational and economic opportunities in the region.
The meeting was attended by the ten ASEAN Leaders, Sultan Hassanal of Brunei, President Thein Sein of Burma (Myanmar), Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, President Yudhoyono of Indonesia, Prime Minister Thongsing of Laos, Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia, President Aquino of the Philippines, Prime Minister Lee of Singapore, Prime Minister Yingluck of Thailand, and Prime Minister Dung of Vietnam, as well as ASEAN Secretary General Surin.