Bolstering engagement with ASEAN, the US Department of State– in partnership with Arizona State University – is launching a US-ASEAN Center in Washington, DC.
At the 2023 US-ASEAN Summit in Jakarta, Vice President Kamala Harris announced the creation of the first ever US-ASEAN Center at Arizona State University’s (ASU) DC campus. This follows the 2022 US-ASEAN Summit in Cambodia in which the Biden administration upgraded the United States’ relationship with ASEAN to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The Center represents a new era in the US-ASEAN relationship and creates a coordination hub for US engagements with ASEAN.
ASEAN shares deep ties with the United States. Within the last decade, bilateral trade between the United States and ASEAN increased by 111% from $241 billion to $508 billion. ASEAN also receives the most US investment in the region, surpassing both China and Japan with $346 billion in US foreign direct investment. The strong economic ties to the region make possible a host of other strategic collaborations in areas such as climate, education, global health, transportation, and defense.
To coordinate and advance this strategic partnership, the State Department is partnering with ASU, a public research university with longstanding connections to the region — especially to Vietnam. Much of ASU’s work with the ASEAN region is through public-private partnerships. Recent public-private partnership programs include the Lower Mekong Young Scientist Partnership, the ASEAN Science Technology Innovation Cooperation, the Vietnam BUILD IT Higher Education Project, and the Indonesia Higher Education Partnership Initiative. All these programs partner with one or more ASEAN member state and the US Department of State or the United States Agency for International Development. US international industry partners are also part of several of the programs. Through these programs ASU strives to collaboratively build economic opportunity, future technology development, economic competitiveness, and people-to-people engagement in the region while strengthening US-ASEAN relations.
The Center aims to heighten the United States and ASEAN’s efforts to promote an open, connected, prosperous, resilient, and secure region. US-ASEAN Summit Chairman, Joko Widodo said in support, “We are committed to the establishment of the ASEAN-US Center in the United States. We acknowledged the Concept Note on the Establishment of the ASEAN-US Center and continue to finalize the preparation with a view to launch the Center by 2024 which would serve to promote the interests of both sides.”
Although the Center will not be in operation until next year, the White House released a potential list of the Center’s activities, subject to approval by ASEAN and the United States. Potential activities include (1) facilitating US-ASEAN government-level coordination, (2) enhancing private sector engagements, (3) strengthening cultural and educational activities, (4) conducting research on the work of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, and (5) facilitating capacity building programs in ASEAN.
ASU President Michael Crow stated in a press release that the Center is “...the next step, and through the ASEAN Center we will extend our collective programs and partnerships across the ASEAN region.” Not only does the creation of the US-ASEAN Center signal a new chapter for ASU’s engagement with the region, but it also reflects the United States’ commitment to supporting ASEAN centrality in its Indo-Pacific foreign policy, to deepening existing connections with ASEAN, and to creating new partnerships for the future.
Bettyjane Hoover is a Young Professional at the East-West Center in Washington. She is a graduate student at American University’s School of International Service, studying International Affairs with a focus on the Indo-Pacific region.
Juan San Nicolas is a participant in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington, DC. He is a current graduate student at Georgetown University, concentrating in Science, Technology, and International Affairs.