The last month proved to be another exciting and consequential month for ASEAN and the Council. The Trump Administration continued to place a high priority on engaging the region. Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak was invited to the White House last week, and the Council co-hosted him for dinner after his meeting with President Trump. Prime Minister Najib offered his support for the U.S. economy, highlighting Malaysian Airlines’ MOU signing that evening in which it committed to purchase 33 Boeing airplanes valued at over $4 billion. GE engines are in the running to power these aircraft. Malaysia’s Employees Provident Fund, a pension fund with close to $7 billion invested in the U.S., and the sovereign fund Khazanah with approximately $400 million invested in U.S. high-tech companies were also highlighted by the Prime Minister as ways Malaysia is contributing to the U.S. economy.
August 8 marked a major milestone in ASEAN History. On this date in 1967, five nations (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) met in Bangkok to sign the Bangkok Declaration that formally established the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It was a monumental undertaking which, 50 years later, would lead to a ten-nation regional grouping which together is home to the third largest population on the planet and the world's fifth largest economy. From an American business perspective, ASEAN is our fourth largest export market and the largest destination for U.S. foreign direct investment in Asia. It is also one of the youngest regions in the world with over 380 million people under the age of 35 and one of the fastest growing economies on earth with 5% average growth per year expected well into the next century.
ASEAN continues to be near the top of the Trump Administration’s agenda in Asia. President Trump had formal bilateral meetings with President Jokowi of Indonesia and Prime Minister Lee of Singapore on the sidelines of the G-20 Meeting in Germany. It was the first time the leaders of Indonesia and Singapore had met the President. Prime Minister Lee is expected to visit Washington, DC later this year in a follow-up to the G-20 meeting. President Jokowi and President Trump hit it off by all reports with President Jokowi inviting the POTUS to Indonesia. This visit will likely happen in 2018. Prime Minister Phuc of Vietnam was also in attendance at the G-20 in Germany and had a chance to follow-up on his May visit to the Oval Office, though not a formal bilateral.
Greetings from Bangkok! Our annual Thailand Business Mission kicked off today, with a delegation of 33 leading U.S. companies from across multiple industry sectors. The continued strength of the U.S.-Thailand commercial relationship is reflected in the list of high-level Thai government officials with whom we will meet, including but not limited to: Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitakon, and the Ministers of Commerce, Digital Economy and Society, Energy, Finance, Industry, Tourism and Sports, and Transportation. With a new U.S.
Greetings from Washington, DC! It has been a busy 5 days in the Nation’s Capital.
Yesterday President Trump hosted Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc - the first visit by an ASEAN leader to Washington this year. The Council was honored to co-host a dinner for Prime Minister Phuc on Tuesday, the evening before the Prime Minister’s meeting in the Oval Office. The U.S. Government was represented by newly installed U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer at the dinner. This was Ambassador Lighthizer’s first major speech in Washington since taking office.
It has been a busy month in ASEAN, and the Council continues to focus on advancing our members’ businesses in the region. I am pleased to report that as a result of our efforts several issues important to our members have been resolved in the last few weeks (see Advocacy below for full details).
Vice President of the United States Mike Pence is visiting Jakarta as I write this newsletter and is the first senior member of the Trump Administration to visit ASEAN. According to press reports, the Vice President announced that President Trump would in fact attend the ASEAN, the East Asia and the APEC Summits in the Philippines and in Vietnam in November. This has been a major policy goal of the Council with the new Administration and it is great to see the Vice President’s reported statement.
March has been another successful month at the Council.
We just completed our Vietnam Business Mission with 30 member companies in attendance. The mission spanned three full days and included a full hour meeting with the Prime Minister Phuc where each member company on the mission was able to address their issues directly to the Prime Minister. Vietnam remains committed to expanding the overall relationship with the United States especially around trade, investment and the economy.
Our Vietnam mission was followed up by another event in the Council’s stellar SME training program, the US-ASEAN Business Alliance for Competitive SMEs, held this time in Yangon, Myanmar with a focus on Digital Tools for SMEs in the Agriculture and Tourism sectors.
A special thank you to those of you who were able to join us for the grand opening of our newly renovated Singapore office. In case you missed the celebration, I encourage you to stop by the office when next you are in Singapore. We hope this new space will be enjoyed as much by our members as by our staff.
Ambassador Michalak and I attended the NCAPEC executive roundtable in Singapore on February 16-17. The Council is co-Chair of the U.S. APEC Business Coalition for 2017 as APEC is chaired and hosted by Vietnam this year.
Happy New Year from Washington D.C. May the Year of the Rooster be a great one for you, your families, your organizations, ASEAN and the United States.
Last week the world watched as the United States peacefully transferred power from one President to another for the forty-fourth time. The Council is committed to working with the new administration to ensure that the importance of the US-ASEAN relationship remains a focus. 2017 ushers in the 50th anniversary of the founding of ASEAN in 1967 as well as the 40th anniversary of formal US-ASEAN relations. These two milestones offer an opportunity not only to celebrate but also highlight all that has been accomplished and all that ASEAN represents especially for American business.
As 2016 comes to a close, I would like to thank all of you for your support of the Council. It is your participation which makes us the most active and dynamic business organization focused on Southeast Asia.
We have spent most of this month focused on the incoming Trump Administration and its key personnel. Marc Mealy is leading an effort to prepare a paper for the incoming President on the issues in Southeast Asia that he and his cabinet might consider as they start to look at ASEAN through their own policy lens.