East Asia and the Pacific: U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting

Today, Secretary Kerry led the United States’ delegation to the U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. The meeting continued 37 years of high-level U.S.-ASEAN engagement since the United States became an ASEAN dialogue partner in 1977. This meeting brought the U.S. Secretary of State together with the foreign ministers of the ten ASEAN Member States for open and constructive discussions of important issues affecting the region. In this meeting, Secretary Kerry highlighted many of the activities the United States and ASEAN have jointly undertaken across ASEAN’s economic, socio-cultural, and political-security pillars. The United States remains committed to close collaboration with ASEAN to promote peace, stability, and inclusive economic growth in Southeast Asia.

Economic Engagement

ASEAN is committed to creating a single-market economic community that allows free movement of goods, services, labor, and capital. As a close partner and largest foreign investor in the ASEAN region, the United States is assisting this effort in areas including trade facilitation, standards harmonization, and the ASEAN Single Window, which will enhance ASEAN’s competitiveness and allow ASEAN to more fully integrate into the global economy, laying the foundation for inclusive and equitable economic development. Each of the programs listed below will facilitate greater ease of trade and improved trade levels.

U.S.-ASEAN Expanded Economic Engagement (E3): Launched in November 2012, E3 seeks to expand trade and investment ties between the United States and ASEAN to create new jobs and business opportunities. We are planning for the 2nd ASEAN-U.S. Business Summit to beheld on the sidelines of the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting at the end of August 2014. The Summit will focus on improving the capacity of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to connect to regional and global supply chains. We are also working with ASEAN on joint statements of shared principles on trade- and investment-related issues that will reaffirm the 11 countries’ commitments to improving their trade policy environments.

Trade and Investment Development Cooperation through ACTI: The ASEAN Connectivity for Trade and Investment (ACTI) program continues to strengthen the trade and investment environment in ASEAN by combining the expertise and resources of USAID and major U.S. corporations. The newly formed U.S.-ASEAN Business Alliance for Competitive SMEs, a public-private partnership between ACTI and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, has held training programs in five ASEAN countries, with more activities planned this fall, and will soon begin creating a Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Online Academy to support SMEs in three key areas: access to finance; access to regional and international markets; and access to information and information technology. We are also cooperating with the Government of Japan to promote women’s entrepreneurship through programs such as the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs’ Network and women’s entrepreneurial centers in Cambodia and Laos.

Constructing the ASEAN Single Window: Through ACTI, the United States is providing support for the building of the ASEAN Single Window, a hallmark of ASEAN’s progress in economic integration. Together, we aim to improve the trade and investment-enabling environment and enhance regional integration and private sector competitiveness. The ASEAN Single Window will speed customs clearance procedures and lower costs for businesses, allowing increased trade that supports jobs and business opportunities in the United States and ASEAN.

Building a More Connected ASEAN: ACTI is working with ASEAN senior telecommunications and information technology officials to support ASEAN’s goals for widely available, affordable, and secure broadband access through sharing best practices in universal service obligations and exposure to new technologies, such as TV White Space, to expand connectivity, particularly in rural areas.

Promoting Environmentally Sustainable Energy: The U.S. Department of Energy and the ACTI program collaborated with the ASEAN Center for Energy to hold a workshop on Rural Electrification during ASEAN’s Renewable Energy Week in April 2014. Participants discussed technologies such as small wind and solar thermal and examined climate and weather risk protection attributes of certain renewable energy technologies. Through ACTI, the United States continues to support a major study of the effect of climate change on hydropower.

Promoting Synergies Between ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC): The United States has provided funding and technical assistance to ensure that all 10 ASEAN members – including the three that are not members of APEC – have the opportunity to participate in U.S.-funded APEC events on topics of mutual interest. In the first half of 2014, government officials from Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar joined officials from APEC economies at a May workshop on food safety sanitation and a June workshop on oil and gas resource management. Five more workshops are scheduled for 2014 on topics including green building standards, plant biotechnology research, and combatting illegal wildlife trafficking.

Political-Security Engagement

ASEAN established the political-security community to promote the principles of democracy, rule of law, and good governance among the member states. By establishing a rules-based community with a shared responsibility for comprehensive security, ASEAN strives to be an outward-looking institution with enhanced global ties. The United States provides funding and technical expertise through the ASEAN-U.S. Partnership for Good Governance, Equitable and Sustainable Development, and Security (PROGRESS). The five-year USAID-managed partnership focuses on good governance, socio-cultural issues, and cross-sectoral and institutional capacity building for the ASEAN Secretariat.

Enhancing Maritime Cooperation: Under the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF), the United States and the Philippines established the Expanded ASEAN Seafarer Training (EAST) program that addresses the need to improve seafarer training, professionalism, and well-being, and will follow up on a successful workshop on seafarer counter-piracy held last year with a second workshop scheduled in Manila this September. The United States is also poised to become the 20th contracting party to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combatting Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), an international organization that serves as a platform for information exchange and for promoting and enhancing cooperation to combat piracy and armed robbery in Asia.

Improving Disaster Management through PROGRESS: The United States is assisting ASEAN with developing training standards for national disaster management offices, creating standards to assess risk and vulnerability to disasters, and enhancing disaster monitoring and information-sharing systems at the ASEAN Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Center).

Building ASEAN’s Cyber Confidence: The United States and Singapore will jointly chair the ASEAN Regional Forum Cyber Confidence Building Measures (CBM) Seminar scheduled to be held in Singapore later this year. Participants in the two-day seminar will share information to increase the understanding of state information and communications technology activities.

Training Anti-Trafficking Specialist Units: Following extensive consultations, the U.S.-funded American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA-ROLI) presented a final project plan for approval during the June 2014 meeting of the Heads of Anti-trafficking Specialist Units (HSUs). In September 2014, ABA-ROLI will provide HSU training in Manila focused on crime scene management and victim-centered approaches to investigations. A second HSU training is scheduled for December.

Combatting Trafficking-in-Persons: With support from the PROGRESS project, the United States will lead a seminar later this year to broaden ASEAN’s understanding of the U.S. Government’s annual Trafficking-in-Persons report. Participants will gain a better understanding of the trafficking-in-persons problem, applicable U.S. law, and the publication of the annual report.

Building Judicial Capacity through PROGRESS: We have also been working through PROGRESS to build dialogue and networking of ASEAN’s judiciaries as they consider administrative and technical challenges in the lead-up to the ASEAN Economic Community. In partnership with the Singaporean judiciary and the ASEAN Secretariat in March 2014 the United States supported the Court Excellence and Judiciary Cooperation Forum in which judiciaries from across the region met to exchange knowledge and share best practices.

Promoting Human Rights Cooperation: The United States and the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights held a consultation in June and discussed areas of potential cooperation to promote human rights in the region.

Socio-Cultural Engagement

ASEAN aspires to be a people-focused and socially responsible community that reinforces regional peace, stability, and prosperity by supporting mutual respect of its members’ cultures and by promoting human and social development. A safe and healthy environment, in which the basic human rights of all people are protected irrespective of age or gender, will strengthen the foundation for emerging young leaders to continue furthering ASEAN’s role in the global community.

Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Presidential Initiative: YSEALI was launched by President Obama in December 2013 to support the development of young emerging leaders in Southeast Asia. The program targets bright, active participants aged 18-35 years. It provides training, networking opportunities, and a platform to discuss their generation’s greatest challenges. President Obama met with 500 youth from throughout the region at a YSEALI town hall in Kuala Lumpur last April.

YSEALI Generation Workshop: The U.S. State Department sponsored 103 emerging Southeast Asian leaders at the first YSEALI Generation Workshop in Kuala Lumpur in April 2014, with the aim of developing a regional network for ASEAN youth to collaborate on solving common challenges and creating new opportunities. The inaugural workshop is already bearing fruit; a Philippine participant received over $90,000 from UNICEF Philippines for an idea she fine-tuned at the YSEALI workshop.

YSEALI Exchanges and Grant Competition: In 2014, a total of 100 YSEALI participants have taken part or will take part in newly initiated exchanges. The U.S. State Department piloted the first YSEALI Institutes in May and July, bringing 39 university-age students to the United States to deepen their knowledge about environmental issues, leadership skills, and regional issues. The first YSEALI Fellows will bring 61 young professional leaders to the United States in 2014 for working placements at U.S. community organizations, government offices, and businesses; 31 participants took part in May 2014, with 30 additional participants slated for October. In July 2014, the U.S. State Department also launched the YSEALI Seeds for the Future competition to fund innovative public service projects led by ASEAN youth.

ASEAN Youth Volunteer Program: Together with the Government of Malaysia, we were pleased to support the launch of the ASEAN Youth Volunteer Program (AYVP) in August 2013. We are now in the final stages of a multi-year agreement with the National University of Malaysia for ongoing support to the AVYP. AVYP volunteers embody “ASEAN-helping-ASEAN” and a sense of regional identity and supporting the development of young leaders who support solutions to development challenges facing ASEAN communities.

U.S.-ASEAN Educational Programs: The United States continues to support Fulbright U.S.-ASEAN Visiting Scholars through the Fulbright U.S.-ASEAN Initiative. Scholars from ASEAN member countries travel to the United States to focus on ASEAN-related priorities, while U.S. Fulbright Specialists and Fulbright Scholars provide capacity-building expertise at ASEAN institutions and universities. We also cooperate jointly with the Brunei Government on the five-year Brunei-U.S. English-Language Enrichment Project for ASEAN.

U.S.-ASEAN Science and Technology Fellow Program: The United States and the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology (COST) launched the U.S.-ASEAN Science and Technology Fellow Program in April 2014. In this first year of the program, seven fellows are working on issues related to biodiversity, climate change, water management, health, and early warning systems for disaster risk reduction in Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, and the Philippines.

Promoting Women and Children’s Rights: The United States supports ASEAN Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) efforts to establish minimum standards for implementing the ASEAN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the Elimination of Violence Against Children. Through the PROGRESS project we are working to improve ASEAN’s capacity to provide support services by bringing women and children’s rights experts to ASEAN to share best practices on strengthening ACWC’s institutions and engaging civil society and supporting the creation of the ASEAN Network of Social Services Agencies.

Advancing U.S.-ASEAN Climate Change Cooperation: Through the Lowering Emissions in Asia’s Forest (LEAF) program, the United States provides technical support to the ASEAN Regional Knowledge Network on Forestry and Climate Change. The LEAF program engages multiple stakeholders in developing guidelines on lowering emissions for land-related investments to reduce emissions from the agriculture, forestry, and land use sector. We have also begun the second phase of the USAID CityLinks program. Two U.S.-ASEAN city pairs have begun cooperating in areas such as drainage systems capacity and urban climate adaptation.

Advancing Food Security and Fisheries: In June 2014, USAID and the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance regional food security and biodiversity conservation. Through USAID’s Maximizing Agricultural Revenue through Knowledge, Enterprise Development and Trade program (MARKET), the United States supports the ASEAN Public-Private Task Force for Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture, which provides a regional platform for companies, farmer and fisher groups, and governments to share information, identify priority issues, and adopt sustainable production practices.