Ms. Catherine Novelli, Undersecretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment at the US Department of State, spoke at the launch of the latest edition of ASEAN Matters for America/America Matters for ASEAN at an event on Capitol Hill in April. There, she praised the new publication for clearly outlining the state of the US-ASEAN relationship and described it as a “roadmap for the future.”
Undersecretary Novelli discussed the importance of the trade relationship between the US and ASEAN nations, citing the high levels of trade and remarkable rates of investment that underpin the connection. She pointed out that US-ASEAN investment flows in both directions, with American companies including Mars, Intel, and Proctor & Gamble investing in ASEAN, while ASEAN companies such as Genting Malaysia and Vinh Long invest billions of dollars in the US. She also stated that the relationship has substantial room for further growth, which will be contingent on greater economic liberalization by ASEAN countries. Cooperative efforts, such as the ASEAN Connectivity through Trade and Investment (ACTI) program, are bringing the US and ASEAN together to chart the path forward. In describing the data in the publication, Ms. Novelli said, “Statistics like these help transform trade for the American public from an abstract concept to something that brings tangible value to our communities.”
Ms. Novelli also spoke to the issues of infrastructure, energy, and sustainable development. ASEAN is facing an increasing demand for electricity, which alone accounts for 40% of all of ASEAN’s infrastructural improvement needs. Undersecretary Novelli highlighted the US-Asia Pacific Comprehensive Energy Partnership, which is investing $6 billion to support energy projects across the region. She also discussed US efforts to support residents of the Mekong River region to develop their local economies while also addressing the environmental challenges that the region faces.
In closing her remarks, Ms. Novelli addressed the importance of people-to-people ties between the US and ASEAN, especially in light of the large youth populations across ASEAN. She highlighted the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) and the Global Entrepreneurship Summit as two US-led programs to support and engage with young people on important topics that affect their countries. These are examples of the US working to deepen its engagement with the nations of ASEAN, which Ms. Novelli emphasized will remain a strong priority of the US government going forward.