US committed to expanding strategic partnership with ASEAN

Hakim Hayat

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam in a titah praised the United States (US) engagement in this region and hoped to see it advance further to bring continued benefits for the people of ASEAN and the US.

Making the remark at the virtual 9th ASEAN-US Summit as part of the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits hosted by Brunei this year, His Majesty noted that from the start of US President Joe Biden’s presidency, the US has proactively engaged with ASEAN, reflecting its strong commitment to the strategic partnership .

“It is our hope that we keep advancing our cooperation and ensure that it brings continued benefits for our people,” added the monarch. His Majesty said this is especially important as the region undergoes a period of change and development.

“The US economic engagement and continued participation in our regional processes are now more important than ever especially to support Asean recovery from COVID-19.” Equally important, His Majesty added, is the US’ continued commitment to ASEAN centrality and a rules-based regional artcitechture, which His Majesty said remains invaluable to peace security and prosperity in the region.

His Majesty also underscored the importance of preparing the future generation with the right skills that are relevant to the Fourth Industrial Revolution and called for ASEAN-US cooperation in digital technology, innovation and economy to help build ASEAN’s capacities in utilising digital solutions for sustainable development of the region, as well as to advance COVID-19 recovery efforts. ASEAN also looked forward to the US support in further strengthening ASEAN’s capacity to manufacture and produce vaccines, with a view to better prepare ASEAN for any future public health emergencies and reduce vaccine supply disruptions in ASEAN.

At the end of the titah, His Majesty reaffirmed Brunei Darussalam’s commitment to working closely with the US to advance the ASEAN-US relationship, uphold multilateralism and enhance regional development, peace and stability.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and US President Joe Biden with other ASEAN leaders during the 9th ASEAN-US Summit.

PHOTO: INFOFOTO

In his reply, the US president, who joins the ASEAN Summit for the first time since assuming presidency and marking the first time in four years Washington engages at the top level with a bloc, said the US is committed to the centrality of ASEAN in the region and the bloc members can expect him to personally show up in the region in future.

He underscored the US’ enduring commitment to the region and pledged to deepen cooperation to take on the challenges of our time, which includes working with their allies and partners to defend against threats to the international rules-based order and to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific. “The relationship between the US and ASEAN is vital, vital for the future of all one billion of our people,” Biden said. “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.”

The president also said Brunei’s leadership remains vital in seeing ASEAN through a very challenging year. He stressed ASEAN’s importance to the US and looks forward to deeping the longstanding cooperation in pursuing new avenue, new dialgoues, investing and driving inclusive prosperity in what he calls a “critical region”.

The president announced the intent to provide up to USD102 million in new initiatives to expand the US-ASEAN Strategic Partnership to support the region’s recovery from COVID-19, address the climate crisis, promote economic growth, and develop human capital.

Additionally, President Biden underlined the importance of the strategic partnership between the US and ASEAN, highlighting new efforts to expand high-level US-ASEAN 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 USD200 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 reaffirmed US support to build back better and drive a green recovery.

He also expressed grave concerns over the military coup and horrific violence in Myanmar and called on the country’s military regime to immediately end the violence, release those unjustly detained, and restore its path to democracy.

He expressed support for ASEAN efforts to hold the military junta accountable to the Five-
Point Consensus.

President of the Republic of Indonesia Joko Widodo, delivered the ASEAN Common Statement as Country Coordinator for ASEAN-US Dialogue Relations, which outlined the need for ASEAN and the US to strengthen peace and stability in the region; the prioritisation of economic integration and cooperation to promote sustainable development; as well as the hope for the US to become a key partner in ASEAN’s new health architecture.

The leaders expressed gratitude for the US’ contributions of vaccines and medical assistance in efforts to advance multilateral cooperation. ASEAN sees that regional economic integration and connectivity via the increase of trade activities and investment flows can help to enhance sustainable development in the region.

The leaders also supported efforts to bridge the digital divide by enhancing digital transformation and addressing cybersecurity threats.

At the end of the summit, the ASEAN-US Leaders’ Statement on Digital Development
was issued.