Asean, US open Manila meet on strengthening cooperationBy Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Manila on Monday played host to the inaugural meeting of the Asean-US Eminent Persons Group (EPG) in an effort to strengthen the growing cooperation between the United States and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
J. Stapleton Roy, former US Ambassador to Singapore, China and Indonesia and one of the three US delegates to the meeting, said in a statement that they “look forward to further deepening our current partnership and building a framework for continued growth in Asean-US relations, to contribute to peace, stability and prosperity in Southeast Asia and the broader East Asia region.”
Roy and former Ambassador Rodolfo Severino, the Philippines eminent person, cochaired the meeting.
Aside from Roy, the United States was represented by Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky, a former US trade representative, and Muhtar Kent, chair and CEO of the Coca-Cola Company.
According to the US Embassy in Manila, “the objective of the EPG is to recommend actions to the US and Asean leaders that will strengthen their relationship into the future.”
The EPG meeting participants discussed “strategies in areas, such as improving development and cooperation in regional integration of Asean and review key elements of the US-Asean partnership, including opportunities to improve people-to-people ties, enhance trade and investment, deepen security cooperation and improve coordination in natural disasters, as well as respond to the global challenges of climate change, energy and food security,” the embassy noted.
For its part, the Department of Foreign Affairs said the EPG meeting, which it called a “recommendation of Asean-US leaders,” had the following agenda points:
Review Asean-US relations and recommend future actions, including opportunities to enhance cooperation on regional and global issues;
Strengthen cooperation and coordination in specific sectors, such as trade and investment, disaster response and energy security; and
Identify new steps for the effective implementation of the decisions of previous Asean-US leaders’ meetings and the Plan of Action to implement the Joint Declaration on Asean-US Enhanced Partnership.
On Tuesday, the Philippines will also host the 25th Asean-US dialogue, a regular meeting between Asean and US senior officials.
The meeting will be cochaired by Foreign Undersecretary for Policy Erlinda Basilio and Kurt Campbell, US State Assistant Secretary for East Asia and the Pacific.
They will join other senior officials of the Asean and the United States in exchanging views on regional and international developments, including preparations for the 4th Asean-US leaders’ meeting in November.
Aside from the Philippines, Asean also groups Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The Philippines is the country coordinator for Asean-US dialogue relations from 2009 to 2012.
The United States, on the other hand, has been a longstanding dialogue partner of the regional bloc since Washington established relations with the multilateral body in 1977.