Congressional Resolution Underlines Importance of US-ASEAN Relationship

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by Rebecca Chen
Congressman Joaquin Castro meets with ASEAN foreign ministers. Image: Office of Joaquin Castro

In late September, the House of Representatives passed a resolution recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the 40th anniversary of US-ASEAN diplomatic relations. The resolution highlights the importance of the US-ASEAN strategic and economic partnership, as well as the member nations’ contributions to regional peace, prosperity, and stability. Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Congresswoman Ann Wagner (MO-02) — the two co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on ASEAN — introduced the resolution in May. The ASEAN caucus was created in January 2017 to expand dialogue and enhance US-ASEAN engagement on high priority issues such as human rights, maritime disputes, North Korea, and food security.

The new resolution is intended to raise awareness inside and outside of Congress about ASEAN’s crucial role in maintaining the global order. It is an important step toward strengthening existing ties and increasing cooperation with Southeast Asia on issues vital to US interests under President Trump, who is currently in Manila for the 31st ASEAN Summit. Congresswoman Wagner was “inspired by Missouri’s significant Southeast Asian American community to co-found the Congressional Caucus on ASEAN.” Missouri has a total ASEAN-American population of 42,200, while ASEAN visitors contribute $49 million to the state economy and ASEAN students contribute $17 million. In district 2 there are more than 2,300 ASEAN-Americans, and students contribute over $743,000 to the district economy, while visitors contribute $6 million. Exports to ASEAN support more than 6,300 jobs in the state and nearly 700 in the district. In Texas, there are nearly 431,000 ASEAN-Americans. A total of nearly 4,800 students from ASEAN countries contribute $105 million to the state economy, while visitors contribute $299 million to the state economy. In addition, exports to ASEAN support nearly 109,000 jobs. District 20 has an ASEAN-American population of nearly 7,800 and students and visitors contribute $9 million total to the district economy. Exports to ASEAN support nearly 500 jobs in the district.

Rebecca Chen is a research intern at the East-West Center and a graduate student at Georgetown University.