Monday, September 25, 2017

ASEAN-US FMs to meet in Washington in May

Asean foreign ministers are scheduled to hold a special meeting with US State Secretary Rex Tellerson in May in Washington DC to discuss the future ASEAN-US relations under the Trump administration.

The Myanmar Times has learned from various reliable sources in ASEAN capitals that the highly anticipated special meeting would be convened back to back to the ASEAN-US senior official meeting in Washington DC in early May.

According to one ASEAN senior official, the date of ASEAN-US foreign ministerial meeting has not yet been decided. On 10 March, Rex held a meeting with all Washington DC-based ASEAN ambassadors at the State Department. They agreed to meet in the US capital.

The meeting will reaffirm the importance and urgency of US continued engagement with ASEAN. Some of the ASEAN envoys, according to an official who asked not to be identified, openly called for continued active engagement by the US under the Trump Administration. Earlier, they have expressed concerns that the new administration might not be paid sufficient attention to the grouping.

The Myanmar Times also has learned that as part of the diplomatic efforts to strengthen ASEAN-US relations under the Trump Adminstration, Vice President Mike Pence will visit Indonesia during the third week of April. During the visit, he will also hold a separate meeting with ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Ming as well as the Jakarta-based ASEAN envoys, known as Committee of Permanent Representatives

Under the previous administration of President Barrack Obama, the ASEAN-US relations have reached the highest point due his full attention to the overall ASEAN-US relations. Obama also hosted a special summit in California, the first of its kind inside the US, to highlight the strategic importance of ASEAN-US relations.

During the ASEAN foreign ministerial retreat last month in Boracay under the Philippine chair, the ASEAN leaders agreed to request a special meeting with Rex, to learn first-hand of the new administration’s policy towards ASEAN. The May special meeting will chart the future ties of their relations.

The US was awarded the status of strategic partner last year after years of efforts. Four ASEAN members (Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei) joined the US led free trade framework known as the Trans Pacific Partnership. When President Donald Trump took office in January, the US pulled out of the premium framework causing great uncertainties to its future.

This year, ASEAN and the US will also commemorate its 40th anniversary of their relations. Since 1967, the US has spent over US$24 million on development assistance to ASEAN members.