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Economy, security top US-Asean Summit talks

/ 05:01 PM February 15, 2016

CALIFORNIA — Economic cooperation and security issues are set to top the agenda at the US-Asean Summit taking place here on Monday and Tuesday at the Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage.

Lao President Choummaly Sayasone attended the first-ever standalone summit between the US and Asean – the 10-member regional bloc, and US President Barack Obama will co-chair the summit.

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The leaders’ discussion will focus on economic issues, specifically promoting regional prosperity through innovation and entrepreneurship, US Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes said in a transcribed press call provided by the White House.

Another focus will be on security, specifically protecting peace, prosperity and security in the Asia Pacific. President Obama will hold a press conference on the issue shortly after the summit.

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It is expected that business leaders will take part in the summit and participate in some of the economic discussions on the first day.

Asean is currently of enormous interest to the United States. The 10 Asean nations together represent the world’s seventh largest economy, while Asean also contributes significantly in dealing with security issues, Rhodes said.

“They are at the nexus of critical security issues, whether it’s maritime security, counterterrorism, or counter-piracy. And their efforts are essential to combatting the threat of climate change,” he was quoted as saying in the media release.

Rhodes added that the US also saw Asean as central to its efforts to engage the Asia Pacific architecture and the US would be part of setting the agenda in the Asia Pacific in the decades to come.

“This summit is meant to send a signal going forward that the US values Asean, that we are going to be engaged in Southeast Asia, we’re going to be engaged in working with the nations of the Asia Pacific to set clear rules of the road on the various issues of common interest that we share with them,” he said.

One of these issues is trade and investment. Collectively, Asean represents America’s fourth largest trading partner. US exports to Asean support hundreds of thousands of jobs while the US is the largest source of foreign direct investment in Asean, which is a growing market.

A number of critical security issues are also on the agenda. One of these is maritime security, including the situation in the South China Sea – an issue that the Lao government has recommended be addressed peacefu lly through diplomatic dialogue.

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There will also be talks on counterterrorism. The recent attack in Jakarta highlights the efforts that ISIL and other extremist groups have made to try to establish a foothold in the region, Rhodes said.

In the environmental field, the successful agreement in Paris depended in part on the United States’ ability to work closely with Asean countries as these nations pursue their own individual climate targets and more environmentally sustainable models of economic development.

President Obama will also be raising the need for good governance, the rule of law, and accountable institutions.

Asean engagement is central to President Obama’s broader strategy of rebalancing the Asia Pacific region, which he has pursued since he took office, Rhodes said.

Senior diplomats and analysts believe the US strategy on the Asia Pacific region will not alter regardless of future changes in the White House Administration.

“Since our strategy in the region [Asia Pacific] has from the start been rooted in America’s own best interests, we have won strong bipartisan support that gives me confidence that the strategic priority on the Asia-Pacific – the Rebalance – will continue in the next administration, regardless of who occupies the White House,” Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel R. Russel said.

He made the remark at a recent event held at the Asia Society in New York, according to the US Department of State.

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