U.S. and ASEAN Advance Trade and Economic Cooperation Efforts
President Obama recently met with the leaders of the ten member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to assess the state of bilateral cooperation on a range of issues, including trade. One of the outcomes of this meeting was the adoption of a Five-year ASEAN-U.S. Plan of Action, a roadmap for pursuing collaborative projects in economic and trade, socio-cultural, and political and security cooperation matters.
Among other things, the U.S. committed to work with ASEAN through the U.S.-ASEAN Trade and Investment Framework Work Plan to build on existing work on trade facilitation and ongoing dialogues on trade and environment and trade finance. To this end, new initiatives will be introduced on digital connectivity and trade and investment in healthcare services, agribusiness and consumer goods. The U.S. also announced plans to launch an initiative enabling the U.S. Trade and Development Agency to discuss upcoming connectivity infrastructure projects and the role for U.S. businesses. The U.S. and ASEAN will also work together to launch the ASEAN Single Window pilot program, a trade facilitation project to expedite cargo clearance. In addition, the U.S. proposed the creation a Southeast Asia Maritime Partnership to provide a multiagency approach to cooperation and capacity building on maritime awareness, management and security.
Also of interest is the creation, with the support of the U.S. as an Asian Development Bank member, of an ASEAN Infrastructure Fund with an initial allocation of $600 million to support infrastructure projects aimed at creating an integrated ASEAN community. A White House fact sheet states that this fund will provide expanded opportunities for U.S. businesses to participate in ASEAN infrastructure.