Oct 26, 2021 / 23:54

US announces US$102 million for ASEAN recovery plans

US has intensified its Covid relief to ASEAN in the pandemic fight by donating vaccines and medical equipment, not to mention financial support.

US President Joe Biden announced the intent to provide up to US$102 million to assist ASEAN’s recovery plans as part of efforts to beef up the ASEAN-US Strategic Partnership.

  US President Joe Biden at the ASEAN-US Summit on Oct 26. Photo: Minh Vu

The new funding will help the 10-member bloc to address the climate crisis, promote economic growth, and develop human capital, Biden said at the ASEAN-US Summit held virtually on Oct 26.

Biden joined the ASEAN-US Summit four years after his predecessor Donald Trump skipped the event almost his entire term.

“The relationship between the United States and ASEAN is vital for the future of all one billion of our people,” Biden said in a statement, calling ASEAN “critical region”.

Additionally, President Biden underlined the importance of the strategic partnership between the US and ASEAN, highlighting new efforts to expand high-level ASEAN-US cooperation in health, climate, energy, transportation, and gender empowerment.

He reiterated the US commitment to ending the Covid-19 pandemic and building back better to prepare for the next, including making available more than 40 million vaccine doses and more than $200 million in emergency health and humanitarian assistance to ASEAN member states to fight Covid-19. 

He urged bold action to strengthen health systems and health security, mitigate the climate crisis and reaffirm US support to build back better and drive a green recovery.

Much of his speech focused on their partnership in the Indo-Pacific. “Our partnership is essential to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific, which has been the foundation of our shared security and prosperity for many decades,” Biden said.  

He reaffirmed the US strong support to the ASEAN Outlook, and the Indo-Pacific, and the rules-based regional order, adding that “our continued cooperation is only growing more important.”

Highlighting the role of ASEAN, he said the bloc is essential in the regional architecture of the Indo-Pacific, and the US is committed to ASEAN Centrality, named ASEAN the linchpin of maintaining resilience, prosperity, and security of the shared region.

Leaders of ASEAN and US at the summit on Oct 26. Photo: ASEAN  

 Cooperation in digital development

At the videoconference, the ASEAN-US declared leaders’ statement on digital development which is considered to be resilient to the Covid-19 pandemic and other economic shocks, ensuring that economic gains can be accessed by all sectors of the population and potentially enabling a sustainable, inclusive, and resilient economic growth, especially during and in the post-pandemic era.

The cooperation is aimed to support ASEAN’s vision for a leading digital community and economic bloc, powered by secure and transformative digital services, technologies, and ecosystem, and undergirded by secure and resilient cyberspace that fosters trust and sustainable growth in the digital economy.

The shared vision assists the continued implementation of ASEAN-US cooperation in the area of cybersecurity, including through relevant ASEAN-led mechanisms such as the ASEAN Regional Forum Inter-Sessional Meeting on the Security and the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) and the ASEAN-US Cyber Policy Dialogues.

It supports the development of ASEAN’s digital infrastructure and promotes the development of a secure, resilient and innovative 5G ecosystem and networks, as well as exchange views and experiences on cyber threats and on the regulatory framework and technical standards, enhance digital infrastructure development to facilitate cooperation in disaster response.

The efforts support the implementation of the ASEAN-US Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement (TIFA) and Expanded Economic Engagement (E3) Work Plan.

They explore cooperation in smart manufacturing, blockchain applications, trade facilitation, promotion of digitalization and e-commerce of micro small medium enterprises (MSMEs), emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 5G, digital connectivity, cross-border data flows, data governance cybersecurity, digital financial services, and regional payment connectivity, and digital health, in line with relevant ASEAN agreements and frameworks such as the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF).

The two sides strengthen cooperation on low carbon energy transformation, in particular digitalization in the energy sector in line with the ASEAN-US Energy Cooperation Work Plan 2021-2025. Explore collaboration on digital solutions, smart grids, and systems integration of renewables in the region.

They agreed to explore USAID assistance on digital literacy and digital entrepreneurship in other areas, and the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) program to educate youth and support entrepreneurship, as well as cooperate with other regional partners; support the next generation of ASEAN leaders in the technology and digital sectors by providing scholarships.

They’re committed to enhancing collaboration with stakeholders, including the US-ASEAN Business Council (USABC), the ASEAN-US Digital Policy Consultative Forum, and the ASEAN Telecommunications Regulators’ Council’s (ATRC) Stakeholders Consultative Dialogue.

In addition, Washington strengthens human capital development in ASEAN, including promoting digital skills and literacy, as well as the 21st century skills in basic education, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). 

 Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh at the event. Photo: VGP

Speaking at the event, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh proposed promoting the ASEAN-US strategic partnership in three aspects: security, socio-economic recovery, and sustainable and inclusive development.

Chinh affirmed that the active presence of major countries, including the US, is an important factor in ensuring peace, cooperation, development, and security in the region. He stated that ASEAN wishes to fully share and consult on settlements and agreements that can affect the balance in the region, thereby avoiding suspicions and maintaining trust.

Regarding security hotspots, including the South China Sea (called East Sea by Vietnam), Chinh affirmed that a constructive approach and responsible behavior play an important role, helping contribute to stability and development. He expressed that the US will actively participate and cooperate with ASEAN in ensuring peace, stability, security, safety, freedom of navigation, and overflight in the sea on a rules-based approach, including UNCLOS 1982.

The Vietnamese PM hoped that Washington would support ASEAN to play an active role in efforts to find sustainable solutions for Myanmar.