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Launch of Latest “ASEAN Matters for America/America Matters for ASEAN”

The opening panel of the launch. From left to right: Ms Dorthe Mikkelsen, Ambassador Michael W Michalak, Dr Ian Storey, Mr Choi Shing Kwok and Dr Satu Limaye. (Credit: ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute)

Friday, 27 September 2019
– The ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute was pleased to partner with the East West Center (EWC) and the US-ASEAN Business Council (US-ABC) for the Asian launch of the 4th edition of ASEAN Matters for America/America Matters for ASEAN. The report is part of the EWC’s Asia Matters for America initiative and aims to showcase increasing ties between the United States and ASEAN. The report features graphics, data and analysis of a range of information on the US-ASEAN relationship, including the strategic partnership, trade, investment, jobs, travel and tourism, educational exchanges, ASEAN American population information and sister city partnerships. There were around 100 diplomats, researchers, journalists, corporate representatives and members of the public at the event.

Ambassador Michael Michalak, Senior Vice-President and Regional Managing Director of the US-ASEAN Business Council, noted that despite the US-China trade tensions, the ASEAN region had proven to be very resilient. (Credit: ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute)

The first part of the event was moderated by Dr Ian Storey, Senior Fellow at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. In his opening remarks, the Institute’s Director, Mr Choi Shing Kwok, said the report played a valuable role in providing up-to-date and relevant data on US-Southeast Asian connections to politicians, government officials, researchers and academics. It also helped both sides realize how much they mattered to each other. Ambassador Michael W Michalak, Senior Vice-President and Regional Managing Director of the US-ASEAN Business Council, noted  that despite the US-China trade tensions, the ASEAN region had proven to be very resilient and a remarkable area for growth as demonstrated by increasing investments from the US, EU, China, Japan and other countries. Ms Dorthe Mikkelsen, Asia Pacific President of MSD and one of the sponsors of the report, highlighted the great opportunities for US businesses in the ASEAN region. She described some of the work MSD was undertaking to address the health needs of the region. Dr Satu Limaye, Vice-President and Director of the East-West Center Washington DC and the creator of the Asia Matters for America initiative, reported on key findings from the latest edition of the report. These included that US exports to ASEAN have increased 60% and that total trade is up almost 30% over the past decade, trade with ASEAN supports half a million jobs in America, and that ASEAN is the number one destination for US investment in the Indo-Pacific (more than China, Japan and South Korea combined).

Ms Dorthe Mikkelsen, Asia Pacific President of MSD and one of the sponsors of the report, highlighted the great opportunities for US businesses in the ASEAN region. (Credit: ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute)

Dr Satu Limaye, Vice-President and Director of the East-West Center Washington DC and the creator of the Asia Matters for America initiative, reported on key findings from the latest edition of the report. (Credit: ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute)

The panel discussion took place later in the session. From left to right: Ambassador Michalak, Mr Daljit Singh, Mr Rafik Mansour and Professor Joseph Liow Chin Yong. (Credit: ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute)

Dr Limaye’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion featuring Ambassador Michalak, Deputy Chief of Mission Rafik Mansour (US Embassy in Singapore) and Professor Joseph Liow Chin Yong (Nanyang Technological University), and was moderated by the Institute’s Senior Fellow, Mr Daljit Singh. In highlighting the burgeoning economic ties between US and Southeast Asia, Ambassador Michalak identified the region as “one of the most dynamic areas of growth in the world”. He also explained how the diversion of supply chains from China into the region, enabling countries like Vietnam to thrive from US private sector investment, has been happening even prior to the trade war. DCM Mansour drew attention to the “ongoing and multifaceted” cooperation between the US and ASEAN, while emphasizing how such partnerships are grounded in mutual respect for sovereignty. Using the recent extension of the 1990 Memorandum of Regarding United States’ Use of Facilities in Singapore for another fifteen years as an example, he underlined how security collaboration between the US and its regional partners have helped to secure economic prosperity. Professor Liow raised the issue of the strategic competition between the US and China, particularly its impact on Southeast Asia. He argued that countries in the region may hold a different view from the U.S. about the regional strategic environment, particularly in terms of not seeing it as a dichotomous choice between the US and China.

Deputy Chief of Mission Rafik Mansour (US Embassy in Singapore), drew attention to the “ongoing and multifaceted” cooperation between the US and ASEAN. (Credit: ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute)

Professor Joseph Liow Chin Yong, Tan Kah Kee Chair in Comparative and International Politics at Nanyang Technological University, raised the issue of the strategic competition between the US and China. (Credit: ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute)

In the discussion that followed, issues such as Southeast Asia’s relative importance to the U.S., the coherence of US public diplomacy with respect to President Trump’s social media habits, and the economic prospects of Vietnam, were debated.

Over 100 people attended the launch, including diplomats, researchers, journalists, corporate representatives and members of the public at the event. (Credit: ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute)