Biden administration reaffirms commitment to ASEAN

Robert Mano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 20 2022 03:54 AM

MANILA—United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai discussed the Biden administration's commitment to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its investments throughout the region. 

In a telephonic press briefing Sunday afternoon, Tai said US partnership with the ASEAN is important considering the region represents the fourth-largest market in the world.

U.S. goods and services trade with the ASEAN totaled nearly $442 billion in 2021, a 22 percent increase compared to the previous year.

Last May, President Joe Biden hosted ASEAN leaders in Washington, D.C., for a special summit – a historic gathering to reaffirm commitment to Southeast Asia. 

As the President noted during the summit, the United States’ relationship with ASEAN countries will hold significant importance not just today but over the next half-century and beyond.

His administration announced $150 million in initiatives to deepen US-ASEAN relations, including through clean energy infrastructure investments, upskilling programs, private sector grants, and educational and cultural exchanges.

This investment builds on the $102 million investment Biden’s announced at the annual US-ASEAN Summit in October 2021 to enhance cooperation on health, climate science, trade facilitation, and more.

"These accomplishments are part of the Biden administration’s effort to create a global race to the top in trade that upholds the rights of workers, protects the planet, and creates an increase in prosperity for all," Tai said.

The US official was also asked regarding supply chain especially now that most economies in the ASEAN region are recovering from the pandemic.

"In our consultations, we are focusing on enhancing our cooperation and our work together on trade facilitation, on trade and labor, trade and environment, and also digital trade. These engagements provide us with really important opportunities to build back together supply chains that are more resilient and sustainable and are focused on fostering an increase in prosperity as we are all building our economies out of the disruptions that we’ve experienced so much over the past couple of years because of COVID and other factors," she said.

The United States said it will provide a $40-million investment to mobilize $2 billion in blended financing for clean energy infrastructure in Southeast Asia. It is expected to increase regional energy trade and accelerate the deployment of clean energy technologies.

The US Department of Transportation will launch air, ground, and maritime transportation programs to promote sustainable and resilient infrastructure.

"The U.S. Trade and Development Agency will launch new programs to catalyze over $13 billion in financing for clean energy projects to advance ASEAN’s net-zero goals. They are also facilitating $1 billion in public and private financing for digital infrastructure across the region," Tai said.

She meanwhile clarified actions that the US has taken on China, specifically the tariffs, which she said are not punitive in nature.

"They can be used in lots of different ways. In some contexts, they are used as sanctions. These are not sanctioning tariffs. The tariffs that were put down in 2018 were really rebalancing tariffs; they are tariffs to try to level the playing field to overcome the unfairness that we have seen and the impacts on the US economy. So that is a legal fact, but that is also a fact with respect to policy," she said.

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