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January 31, 2024

President's Newsletter, January 2024

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January 31, 2024

Dear Members, 

As we start this 40th anniversary year of the US-ASEAN Business Council, I am excited to highlight areas where we are already making an impact for U.S. business in ASEAN and to draw attention to our plans for the coming months.  

On January 23-27, the Council kicked off its first Industry Mission of the year to Vientiane, Lao PDR, on the sidelines of the 27th Meeting of ASEAN Tourism Ministers (M-ATM). Building on the 2024 ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) theme of 'Quality & Responsible Tourism: Sustaining ASEAN's Future,' the Council engaged ministers and key officials to share sustainable and responsible tourism practices, as well as to promote the resiliency and recovery of the travel and tourism industry within ASEAN. The delegation presented key tourism insights and recommendations to both ASEAN Tourism Ministers and the Heads of National Tourism Organizations (NTOs) and engaged with key officials during bilateral meetings with the ASEAN Secretariat, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

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In preparation for the upcoming third-largest democratic election in the world in Indonesia, the Council is actively distributing special election-related updates.  From Jan 19-24, our Jakarta office hosted engagements with each of the presidential candidate’s campaign teams as part of the 2024 Indonesia Election Briefing Series. Notably, we had separate discussions with Dradjad H. Wibowo, representing the expert team from Prabowo–Gibran; Arsjad Rasjid, the campaign lead from Ganjar–Mahfud’s team; and Tom Lembong, Co-Captain of the Anies–Muhaimin campaign. These engagements provided our members with special opportunities to gain unique insights into the candidates' priorities.

As we enter our own Presidential election year here in the United States, trade policy initiatives are likely to take a back seat to political campaign considerations.  That means it will be even more important to continue work on the Indo Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) agreement by implementing Pillar 2 and formally signing the text of Pillars 3 & 4.  Beyond that, trade experts in Washington D.C. are exploring the potential for sectoral agreements (e.g. digital economy, AI, critical minerals, clean energy, health) to ensure that we don’t get left behind as ASEAN member states pursue currently available trade arrangements which do not include the United States.   

In a positive signal for U.S.-ASEAN relations, a Congressional Delegation traveled to Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam Jan 21-28 comprised of Rep. Young Kim (R-CA), Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA), Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), Rep. Jonathan Jackson (D-IL), and Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC). While there wasn’t time for a formal brief before departure, the Council provided a regional overview to Congressional Staff at the Rayburn Building.  In addition, the Council organized a meeting with the CODEL in Singapore, where members representing the digital, financial services, energy, healthcare, and professional services sectors - many with government backgrounds of their own - offered thought provoking comments on the importance of the United States maintaining a strong trade posture in the region amidst geopolitical uncertainty.  

Additionally, Jose Fernandez, Undersecretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment, is traveling to the region Jan 22 to Feb 1.  In Vietnam, he stated that 15 American companies, including semiconductor firms, have expressed interest in investing $8 billion in clean energy infrastructure.  In Manila, he is expected to discuss supply chain diversification, deepening the strong U.S.-Philippines economic partnership, and the critical minerals sector.   

Looking forward, I’m excited that Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will lead a Presidential Trade and Investment Mission to the Philippines March 11-12.  During the March 19-21 Vietnam Business Mission, we’ll host a special 40thanniversary celebration plus a Defense Procurement Work group session (March 18) and Food and Agriculture Industry Mission (March 21-22).  Other near-term highlights include: 

  • ASEAN Digital Ministers’ Meeting (Singapore) January 30 – February 1 
  • Chairman’s Council Advisory Group (virtual) Q1 meeting February 13 
  • Food and Agriculture Industry Mission to Philippines February 13-15 
  • Cambodia Business Mission (Phnom Penh) February 28-29 
  • ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (Luang Prabang) April 4 - 5 
  • Health and Life Sciences Industry Mission to Vietnam Apr 9-10 
  • U.S. Ambassadors’ Tour (New York and Chicago) April 22 – 26 
  • Malaysia Business Mission (Kuala Lumpur) May 7 – 9 
  • Philippines Business Mission (Manila) week of May 20 – TBC 

And – please save the date - we’ll host a very special 40th anniversary gala celebration the evening of August 18 in Singapore.  

Best regards, 

Month in Review

CSIS Webinar on the Future of the Indo-Pacific Framework (IPEF)  
On Jan 17, the Council’s Chief Policy Officer & SVP Marc Mealy participated as one of three expert speakers.  Marc drew attention to how IPEF can still potentially serve as a commercially relevant platform to promote US-ASEAN economic relations, considering that 7 of the 10 ASEAN member states are IPEF members.  Marc noted that in 2024 it will be critical to sign the agreement texts on Pillars 3 and 4; activate the work plans of the IPEF administrative bodies; and convene at least one ministerial meeting and a forum/event focused on private sector engagement and IPEF related projects. Marc highlighted that over the next 12-24 months, ASEAN nations will be involved in a number of other trade policy negotiations, including the development of their regional Digital Economic Framework Agreement (DEFA), upgrading the ASEAN-China FTA, continuing negotiations on the ASEAN-Canada FTA, and pursuing steps to improve their own regional FTA (ATIGA) to continue the process of building the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). This highlights the imperative that as ASEAN nations continue their trajectory towards becoming (collectively) the 4th largest market in the world, they have options, and the United States needs to compete! 
CSIS Vietnam Conference 
On Jan 23, Ambassador Osius represented the Council at the first annual U.S.-Vietnam Conference by participating in the trade, technology, and energy panel.  The conference featured Vietnam’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and its Ambassador to the United States, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia Lindsey Ford.  The Conference acknowledged how far our countries have come since the end of the war and especially in recent years, but the primary focus was on the unprecedented opportunities for trade and investment across virtually every sector in the coming time, the challenges we will need to work through, and ideas on how to realize the potential of our newly-formed Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (a status only shared with five other countries).

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ASPI Asia Spotlight 2024 Conference 
On Jan 25, Ambassador Osius represented the Council at a high-level dialogue hosted by the Asia Society Policy Institute. Featuring Singapore’s Ambassador Chan Heng Chee, Senators Bill Hagerty (R-TN) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Deputy National Security Advisor John Finer, the event saw highly substantive conversation between top government officials, policy experts, and private sector leaders on key challenges and opportunities ahead, addressing enduring U.S. interests in Asia and options for advancing U.S. economic leadership in the Indo-Pacific.  
Laos Travel & Tourism Mission 
The Council kicked off its first Industry Mission of the year with a Travel & Tourism Mission on the sidelines of the 2024 ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) in Vientiane, Lao PDR Jan 23-27.  The delegation engaged with ASEAN Tourism Ministers and senior government officials, highlighting the role the U.S. private sector can play in promoting travel and tourism recovery, and in leveraging sustainable and quality tourism within ASEAN. During the 59th Head of National Tourism Organizations (NTOs) Meeting and the 27th Meeting of ASEAN Tourism Ministers (M-ATM), Ambassador (ret.) Brian McFeeters presented key tourism insights and recommendations to both ASEAN Tourism Ministers and Heads of NTOs. Additionally, bilateral meetings were conducted with the Secretary-General of ASEAN, as well as with Tourism Ministers and key officials from seven ASEAN countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

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Mandatory FCPA training at the Council 
On January 8, Council staff completed mandatory annual FCPA training.  Special thanks to Mr. Brian Whistler of Baker McKenzie for preparing and delivering this in-depth program. 

Upcoming Events
Please find the most updated version of the Council's 2023 Events Calendar here.

Cambodia Annual Business Mission 
On February 28-29, the Council will lead its annual business mission to Cambodia. This mission is significant because it will be our first official engagement with the newly appointed cabinet of Prime Minister Hun Manet. To register, please click here. Please contact Jack Myint at jmyint@usasean.org with any questions.  
The Council will lead a delegation of U.S. companies to the 4th ASEAN Digital Ministers (ADGMIN) Meeting in Singapore, from January 31 to February 2, 2024. The Mission offers a valuable platform for industry leaders and senior ASEAN digital authorities to exchange insights on how U.S. industry can support ASEAN Governments in achieving the 4th ADGMIN's theme of "Building Inclusive and Trusted Digital Ecosystems," while also facilitating discussions on private sector contributions to ASEAN's priorities such as cybersecurity, AI, and the Digital Economy Framework Agreement (DEFA) for regional digital integration. With the increasing number of companies joining, this mission will be our largest engagement with ADGMIN since 2017. 
The Council is excited to roll out a Digital Economy Framework Agreement (DEFA) Workshop Series this year, aiming to equip the ASEAN DEFA Negotiating Committee (NC) with technical assistance and capacity building to develop the agreement. Within the next two years, DEFA NC, comprising negotiators from all 10 ASEAN Member States will be negotiating more than 40 provisions on digital trade, e-commerce, digital payments, cross-border data flow, cybersecurity and AI, among others. The business community continues to advocate for a comprehensive, high standard and binding DEFA to enable ASEAN yto capture the commercial benefits of the agreement. 

Comings and Goings

Logan Carnicelli joins the Council as the Country Research Associate for Malaysia and Brunei and brings renewable energy experience from his business development work at LBFNY Solar. Logan graduated from SUNY Oswego with a BA in political science and from Syracuse University with an MA in International Relations and a certificate of advanced study in post-conflict reconstruction.  
Based in Manila, Alyssa “Sassy” Lacsamana is our full time Digital Content Associate.  She supports the external Communications Team and the Philippines office, contributed to our new website, and will be critical to building our publishing business.  Sassy graduated from Ateneo De Manila University College with a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies and tracks in Communication and Information Design. 
Joining us in KL as an Associate is Ethan Rozario, an honors graduate of Monash University with a double major in Global Studies and Psychology. Ethan will support the Malaysia office and assume the Travel and Tourism portfolio following the February 2024 ASEAN Travel and Tourism Business Mission.   
Mia Venezia is our new US Membership Associate and Business Development.  She also covers Supply Chain and Food and Agriculture. Mia is currently pursuing a joint BA and MA in International Relations at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). She is multilingual with fluency in English, Spanish, and Bahasa Indonesian. 

Membership Section

Membership Update 
Welcome to the inaugural Membership Section! This space is dedicated to keeping you engaged and updated with all the essential information to make the most of your Council membership. 
In the D.C. office, for membership inquiries and support, please reach out to: 
Andrew Koch, Director of Membership U.S., akoch@usasean.org 
Mia Venezia, Associate for Membership and Business Development,mvenezia@usasean.org 
In the Singapore and Kuala Lumpur offices, for regional support and inquiries: 
Sarah Lessing, Director of Membership – Asia, slessing@usasean.org 
Rahul Rai, Associate – Health & Life Sciences, Membership,rrai@usasean.org 
Emma Tabatabai, Senior Country Representative, emma@usasean.org 
We're thrilled to announce our new Online Member Center, an integrated platform designed to enhance your experience with the Council. Here, you can easily update your directory information, manage event registrations, and handle invoice payments. You can activate your account using the link here: https://usaseanbusinesscouncil.growthzoneapp.com/MIC/create 
To get started, check out these handy resources: 

For any queries, our assistance team is ready to support you ataccess@usasean.org
Our team will reach out to you in the coming weeks to arrange a Q1 call to help us understand your priorities for the year, introduce upcoming Council programming, and make necessary account updates, including primary and billing contact details. 
Also, please note that automated invoice payment reminders will be sent to ensure timely settlements. As per Council policy, effective May 1, 2023, we kindly remind you that surcharges may apply on invoices outstanding beyond 120 days, ranging from 2% to 4%. We appreciate your attention and prompt action with this matter to help us support you better. 
Lastly, we are grateful for your valuable insights with the 2023 Member Survey. Our team is diligently reviewing your feedback and contacting those who requested further engagement. Your suggestions are the cornerstone of our continuous improvement throughout 2024! 

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Corporate Council

Corporate membership provides general advocacy support, access to all country- and industry-specific updates, and access to most Council events.

  • Business missions to all 10 ASEAN markets which engage governments at the highest levels.
  • Off-the-record roundtables and policy briefings with senior government leaders in ASEAN and the U.S.
  • On-the-ground support for promoting your positions/policy priorities with policy makers.
  • Industry-specific, country-specific, cross-sector and regional advocacy through committees that target their engagement based on member priorities.
  • Advocacy on your behalf in situations where your company should not be directly identified or is unable to be present.

Chairman’s Council

Corporate membership provides general advocacy support, access to all country- and industry-specific updates, and access to most Council events.

  • All Corporate benefits.
  • Assistance with resolving company-specific trade or investment issues through our six regional offices and U.S.-based staff.
  • Develop effective advocacy strategies to impact policy concerns.
  • Identification of, and engagement with appropriate policy influencers to impact policy concerns.
  • Assistance in conducting follow-up after engaging government leaders (can include providing officials with additional materials, setting up meetings with their staff, getting a readout of the government’s reaction to the discussion).
  • Support for developing arguments that will resonate with target stakeholders.
  • Leading and setting the agenda and policy priorities of the Country and Industry Committees.