US-ASEAN Special Summit to conclude

A special summit between US President Joe Biden and leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) concludes today

A US-ASEAN summit to discuss issues including the RCEP trade agreement will conclude today in Washington D.C. – Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

A special summit between US President Joe Biden and leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) concludes today in Washington D.C.

Discussions centered on China’s influence in the region, Myanmar’s humanitarian crisis, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and deepening US-ASEAN trade relations. In January, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade agreement—which includes almost every Asia-Pacific nation but not the US—came into force to create the world’s largest trading bloc. In response, in February the White House called for an empowered ASEAN and the development of a regional economic framework as key parts of its Indo-Pacific strategy. Recently, the White House’s Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell reaffirmed US military and economic engagement with Asia in order to fix past mistakes in the region.

Expect ASEAN leaders to use the conference as a platform to seek stronger American economic and military cooperation, especially from regional allies like Thailand. Although Washington will continue to use ASEAN as a regional forum, the organization’s need for consensus will likely force the US to work with individual countries to further its policy goals. The US will not be able to regain long-term economic influence in ASEAN unless it joins one of the region’s trading agreements like the RCEP or updated Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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