ASEAN receives U.S. assistance for integration process
Tony Hotland, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
USAID is providing the ASEAN Secretariat with up to US$150 million for programs that help facilitate the integration of 10 ASEAN countries into a single community by 2015.
“The United States has a huge economic interest in ASEAN, and therefore does also in the integration process of ASEAN,” said U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, Scot Marciel, at a ceremony to launch the programs in Jakarta.
According to the ASEAN Secretariat, trade between ASEAN and the U.S. reached $179 billion in 2006. The same year, ASEAN attracted $52 billion in foreign direct investment — a twofold increase from 2004 — from the U.S.
From 1995 to 2005, it said, the U.S. invested $83 billion in ASEAN countries, becoming the single-largest source of investment in the region for the period.
With high economic growth and the stronger power grip of China and India in the continent, analysts believe Washington has to engage more with ASEAN, a bloc with a population of nearly 568 million.
ASEAN has forged the ASEAN Plus Three forum that coordinates cooperation between ASEAN and three vital powers in East Asia, namely China, Japan and South Korea.
ASEAN also leads the East Asia Summit, a pan-Asia forum held annually by the leaders of 16 countries that also includes India, Australia and New Zealand.
ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said the U.S. assistance package was seen by Washington as a continuation of its cooperation in the region that has taken place since 1977.
The ASEAN Development Vision to Advance National Cooperation and Economic Integration, or ADVANCE, will run for the next eight years to support the implementation of ASEAN’s plans for a regional community based on economics, politics and culture.
There are three main programs under ADVANCE. The ASEAN-U.S. Technical Assistance and Training Facility seeks to deliver policy studies and assessments to support ASEAN plans.
The ASEAN Single Window Programs is set to develop and implement a clearance system to enable the single submission and processing of customs data and a single point of decision-making in clearance.
The Regional Supply Chain/Competitiveness Program seeks to promote regional market integration.
Six of ASEAN’s 10 member states, including Indonesia, have not ratified the ASEAN Charter, a cornerstone of the integration plan slated to come into force by the end of the year.
Surin singled out Monday the Philippines and Indonesia for their “tedious process” of requiring international accords to be approved by the parliament to take effect.
“We will disseminate information about the benefits of this charter. Some House members have personally conveyed to us their interest to learn more,” he said.