U.S. renews pledge to ASEAN ‘to guard against threats to international rules, norms’

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. at far right with President Biden and nine ASEAN heads of states and governments. Photo: White House Instagram

Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin, Jr. led the Philippine Delegation to the two-day ASEAN-U.S. Special Summit which the White House announced was to re-affirm the importance of U.S.-ASEAN cooperation in ensuring security, prosperity, and respect for human rights.  

President Biden welcomed the leaders of ASEAN for the historic summit, held in Washington D.C.  

“A great deal of history of our world in the next 50 years is going to be written in the ASEAN countries, and our relationship with you is the future, in the coming years and decades,” Biden told ASEAN leaders. “We’re launching a new era in U.S.-ASEAN relations.”

For her part, Vice President Kamala Harris said that “the United States and ASEAN have shared a vision for this region, and together will guard against threats to international rules and norms.”  She said the United States would remain in the region for “generations.”

The White House pledged $150 million to ASEAN in support of initiatives for clean energy and maritime security.

A statement from the White House says, the United States has “steadily deepened” its partnership with Southeast Asia, providing over $12.1 billion in development, economic, health, and security assistance to Southeast Asian allies and partners since 2002 and over $1.4 billion in humanitarian assistance, including disaster assistance, emergency food aid, and support to refugees throughout Southeast Asia.

President Biden  welcomes Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. (left) and Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez to the White House where the U.S. president is hosting a dinner for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Philippine Embassy photo

It said further that the Biden-Harris Administration’s FY 2023 Budget Request included over $800 million in bilateral assistance for ASEAN partners and over $25 million to “enhance ASEAN’s capacity to tackle pressing regional challenges.”

“The United States and Southeast Asia also benefit from our far-reaching commercial and trade ties. ASEAN represents the world’s fourth largest market and the United States is ASEAN’s largest source of foreign direct investment, while our two-way trade amounted to over $360 billion in 2020.”

The statement made mention of the “special friendship” shared by the U.S. and ASEAN and their combined one billion people. Its people-to-people programs extended to ASEAN countries included the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative’s 155,000 alumni, and the connections forged through nearly 6 million U.S. visas, including student visas, granted to Southeast Asian travelers since 2010.

At the end of the summit, the White House has announced over $150 million in initiatives which  will mobilize billions more in private financing that will “deepen U.S.-ASEAN relations, strengthen ASEAN centrality, and expand our common capacity to achieve our shared objectives.”

Locsin participated in discussions with ASEAN leaders, President Biden, Vice President Harris, members of the U.S. Congress, as well as the U.S. business sector. He reaffirmed Manila’s commitment to collaborate with its neighbors and partners for a “sustainable post-pandemic recovery and lasting peace and security in the region.”

The Special Summit in Washington D.C. was the second special summit hosted by the United States since it became ASEAN’s dialogue partner in 1977, making it a momentous occasion celebrating 45 years of ASEAN-U.S. partnership.  A 2016 summit hosted by then President Obama was held in California.

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