Yesterday, four United States legislators representing both major political parties issued a joint statement congratulating Vietnam for assuming Chairmanship of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and Congressmen Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) spoke highly of the US-ASEAN relationship and welcomed further plans for multilateral cooperation and discussion between the United States and ASEAN countries under Vietnam’s leadership.
This relationship will deepen with the upcoming US-ASEAN Summit, in which President Trump invited leaders of ASEAN countries to the United States in the first quarter of 2020. This presents an opportunity for closer Asian engagement, while also allowing for a progress report on the State Department’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy. FOIP seeks to institute a US-led, shared vision for the Indo-Pacific, measurable in five broad components. These include engagement with regional institutions, enabling economic prosperity, investing in human capital, ensuring peace and championing effective governance.
The US-ASEAN relationship is not solely confined to security, but also provides economic advantages for both parties. ASEAN is the United States’ fourth largest export market, accounting for 5.2% of US exports in 2018, and the United States is the fourth largest trading partner for ASEAN. Furthermore, US goods exports to ASEAN have increased by nearly 30% since 2008, demonstrating the deepening relationship. US investment in ASEAN countries reached $271 billion in 2018, more than the US directed to Japan and China combined.
Various US states also share close ties with ASEAN. The aforementioned legislators’ states, including New Jersey, Colorado, Idaho and Massachusetts export a combined $8 billion worth of goods and services to ASEAN countries annually.
Congratulations to Vietnam for assuming Chairmanship of ASEAN for 2020 in what is shaping to be another year of close US-ASEAN cooperation.
Joshua Martelli is a participant of the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. He is a second year undergraduate student at the University of Western Australia studying a Bachelor of Arts, double-majoring in Political Science, International Relations and Asian Studies.