(Jakarta) – The US-ASEAN Business Council held its annual ASEAN Business Mission today, with six leading U.S. companies engaging key ASEAN stakeholders to further strengthen the public and private sectors ties across many spectrums of ASEAN cooperation. The Mission was led by Ambassador Michael W. Michalak, Senior Vice President & Regional Managing Director of the US-ASEAN Business Council.
The delegation met with the Secretary-General of ASEAN, H.E. Lim Jock Hoi and Deputy Secretary-General for ASEAN Economic Community, H.E. Aladdin D. Rillo and a number of ASEAN Secretariat high-level officials. The delegation also had an interface with Thailand Permanent Representative to ASEAN, H.E. Phasporn Sangasubana; a briefing by the officials from the U.S. Mission to ASEAN; and engaged in an open dialogue on Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with Dr. Ir. Donna Gultom, M.Sc., Director for ASEAN Negotiations at the Ministry of Trade of Indonesia and Dr. Lili Yan Ing, Senior Economist at Economic Research Institute for East Asia and ASEAN (ERIA) who is also the former Lead Advisor to the Trade Minister of Indonesia. The Mission was preceded by a reception co-hosted by Ms. Melissa Brown, Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Mission to ASEAN and the Honorable Joseph R. Donovan Jr., U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia.
This year’s Mission focused on deepening private sector’s relations with ASEAN stakeholders, understanding the current progress and challenges in building ASEAN Economic Community, and exploring opportunities for ASEAN’s external economic relations amidst changing geo-political and geo-economic landscape. As Thailand closes its chairmanship year, the delegation discussed the achievements across the three ASEAN Community pillars and the priority deliverables that will be carried over by Vietnam starting January 2020. During the meeting with the Secretary-General, the Council applauded the ASEAN Secretariat for coordinating business councils’ policy recommendations and for opening up a channel for business stakeholders to engage with ASEAN Secretariat officials. The delegation affirmed the commitment to support all ASEAN countries in harnessing industry 4.0 potentials and benefiting fully from the AEC, particularly in the areas of human capital, digital economy, innovation, e-Commerce, standard, and energy cooperation.
“This is the sixth ASEAN Business Mission the Council has led, and the scope of our engagement with ASEAN is expanding each year” said Ambassador Michalak. “We will continue working with the Secretariat to help promote our initiatives and flagship programs throughout the region in 2020, including the U.S.-ASEAN Internship Program, SME initiatives and the AEM-ADGMIN Roadshow to the United States. We are particularly excited for Vietnam’s chairmanship under the theme of a Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN.”
The delegation also had a candid and engaging dialogue with two RCEP experts. Ambassador Michalak highlighted that “ASEAN is at a critical juncture as the macro global economic trends continue projecting uncertainty. India’s withdrawal from the RCEP and the on-going tariff wars between China and the U.S. may bring disruptive effects for the U.S. businesses’ supply chains, hence trade and the economy in Southeast Asia.” The discussion was centered on the next steps of the RCEP following the latest developments during ASEAN Summit in Bangkok and also how business community may benefit from this mega-trade deal.
The Council’s engagement with the ASEAN Secretariat has been the cornerstone of its expanding participation in various ASEAN Ministerial Meetings. In 2019, apart from the 20th annual engagement with the ASEAN Economic Ministers, the Council has participated in the meetings of ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, ASEAN Agriculture & Forestry Ministers, ASEAN Energy Ministers, ASEAN Transport Minister, ASEAN Tourism Ministers, ASEAN Telecommunications Ministers, and ASEAN Ministerial Conference on Cybersecurity.
Companies participating in the delegation included Citi, ConocoPhillips, Herbalife Nutrition, Philip Morris International, UL and Visa.