Before next week’s summit at Sunnylands between President Barack Obama and the leaders of the ten Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders was announced, the University of Southern California’s Center on Public Diplomacy (CPD) hosted an event to recognize ASEAN’s significance to the state of California. The event last October at the university brought together American ambassadors to four of the ASEAN member nations to discuss the local impact of ASEAN-US trade, ASEAN’s important role in Southern California’s economic growth, and the value of people-to-people connections between the two regions.
The Center on Public Diplomacy is a joint project between the university’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the School of International Relations. The university is located in California’s 37th congressional district, which had a population of over 16,300 ASEAN-Americans at the last census. The Sunnylands estate, formerly the home of the same Annenberg family for which USC’s journalism school is named, is located in the city of Rancho Mirage, in the state’s 36th congressional district. That district is home to more than 17,200 ASEAN-Americans. Both the 36th and 37th districts have hundreds of jobs supported by exports to ASEAN countries, and have significant revenues generated by exports to ASEAN, as well as from tourism and international students arriving from ASEAN. In the state of California as a whole, ASEAN-Americans represent 6.75% of the state’s total population, and 44% of its Asian-American population. Statewide, exports to ASEAN are worth over $14 billion and more than 90,000 jobs are supported by exports of goods and services to the region.
The city of San Diego sent a trade delegation to the Philippines last summer in an effort to expand trade ties, while the Vietnamese ambassador to the US visited the state last October and contributed an op-ed to The Sacramento Bee to discuss the strong economic relations between his country and California. More recently, United airlines announced a new nonstop flight between San Francisco and Singapore that will begin service in June, making it the only direct route to Singapore from anywhere in the US.
Full video of the discussion at USC, which included Ambassadors Kirk Wagar (Singapore), William E. Todd (Cambodia), Robert O. Blake, Jr. (Indonesia), and Joseph Y. Yun (Malaysia), can be viewed here.