Secretary Blinken’s participation in last week’s ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meeting of Foreign Ministers hosted by the Government of Cambodia in Phnom Penh reinforces the value of “ASEAN Centrality” to America’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.
Given the growing importance of ASEAN to America’s economic interests -- six ASEAN nations were ranked in the top 31 of America’s largest trade partners in the world last year -- it is vital that the United States strengthen its engagement with ASEAN as a region, as others around the world are actively doing.
Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Malaysia and Singapore reflects the continued growth in awareness of the importance of the U.S.-ASEAN relationship in the House of Representatives. Engaging the leaders of Malaysia and Singapore, two of the seven ASEAN nations that are members of the Indo Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), enables an exchange of perspectives on regional political and security issues and can generate new opportunities to strengthen relationships in shared priority areas such as supply chain resilience and digital trade.
The Council hopes that as Members of Congress debate legislation that can directly impact the future of U.S.-ASEAN relations and the IPS, such as the Cambodia Democracy Act, it will appreciate the broader implications of imposing unilateral economic sanctions on Cambodia as the current Chairman of ASEAN. Unilateral sanctions and stigmatization could seriously harm U.S. security interests by pushing Cambodia closer to China at a time when Cambodia continues to make impressive strides on economic growth and sustainability issues of importance to American companies and investors.
Following the Secretary’s meeting with the Prime Minister of Cambodia on the sidelines of the ARF, we encourage continued dialogue and diplomacy around issues pertaining to human rights, labor rights, and China’s use of Cambodian military facilities rather than counterproductive economic sanctions written into law.