Op-Ed by U.S. Embassy Chargé d’affaires Tom Daley: The United States and ASEAN: Strategic Partners for the Indo-Pacific

Under the Biden-Harris Administration, the United States is revitalizing our multilateral partnerships to advance our shared prosperity, security, and values in the Indo-Pacific.  ASEAN is at the center of our vision for the Indo-Pacific, which includes a firm commitment to the ASEAN-centered regional architecture and strong support for the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.  Building on our enduring partnership and friendship with Timor-Leste, the United States continues to support Timor-Leste’s accession to ASEAN, respecting that ultimately the decision is for ASEAN members.

Our countries, which jointly have one billion people, are linked by ancestral ties, strong trade, and growing investment relations.  Soon we hope the flows of millions of businesspeople and tourists can resume between our countries as our people-to-people ties are the backbone of our relationship.  Those ties underscore the importance of an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, secure, and prosperous.

This August, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and ASEAN foreign ministers came together to take stock of the U.S.-ASEAN strategic partnership and chart its future course at the annual U.S.-ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.  Our strategic partnership with ASEAN, as well as our partnership with Timor-Leste, is focused on our most urgent challenges: fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, building sustainable economic recovery, and achieving our climate goals.

To combat the prevailing threat of the last two years – COVID-19 – the United States has been working side-by-side with Timor-Leste and ASEAN partners to respond.  The United States has already provided more than $1.7 million in critical assistance to Timor-Leste to fight COVID-19.  This includes vital equipment and other support to strengthen Timor-Leste’s laboratory systems, manage infection control, support water and sanitation in health clinics, and conduct community awareness campaigns to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Globally, the United States has also provided more than 110 million vaccines doses, including more than 23 million doses of vaccines and nearly $160 million in emergency COVID-19 assistance to ASEAN members, and we are only just beginning.  The United States is the world’s largest single donor to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment, with a $4 billion contribution to Gavi in support of COVAX.  We are proud that COVAX has already delivered 292,800 vaccine doses to Timor-Leste.  We are also providing more than 500 million safe and effective vaccine doses to GAVI for distribution through COVAX.

As part of our commitment to work with ASEAN partners to combat the climate crisis, we have announced new programs that support economic growth and help align policies and investments on a pathway to limiting total global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.  These include building public-private partnerships to help businesses in ASEAN adapt to COVID-19, support to micro, small and medium enterprises to help them take advantage of the digital economy, sharing of best practices in ICT-related fields like e-commerce or cybersecurity, and helping the region transition to clean energy.  We look forward to deepening our partnership and support to Timor-Leste to tackle the climate crisis.

People-to-people ties are a core driver of our cooperation, and the United States is excited to continue decades of positive collaboration with the citizens of Southeast Asia.  We are supporting the next generation of Timorese and ASEAN leaders through the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), which includes professional and academic exchanges, regional workshops and seminars, and more. We also are helping the region’s youth develop innovative ideas to strengthen civic engagement, expand economic empowerment, promote education, and address environmental challenges through the YSEALI Seeds for the Future program.

The United States will continue to expand our strong, strategic partnership with ASEAN to advance peace, prosperity, and security in the Indo-Pacific, and we remain committed to supporting Timor-Leste’s further integration into regional engagements that support those efforts.

To that end, we look forward to additional fruitful engagement in the region following Vice President Harris’s travel to Singapore and Vietnam last week to advance our cooperation on pressing regional and international challenges as well as on deepening ties between the people of the United States and the people of the nations of Southeast Asia.