Mon, 16 May 2022

Washington [US], May 13 (ANI): US President Joe Biden on Thursday (local time) welcomed the leaders of the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) for a historic US-ASEAN Special Summit, held for the first time in Washington to re-affirm the US' commitment to Southeast Asia and underscore the importance of US-ASEAN cooperation.

"This evening, I welcomed ASEAN leaders to the White House for the first time in history, and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Southeast Asia. We discussed the importance of working together to ensure security, prosperity, and respect for human rights for our one billion people," Biden said in a tweet.

This visit comes as the Biden-Harris Administration's FY 2023 Budget Request included over USD 800 million in bilateral assistance for ASEAN partners and over USD 25 million to deepen relations with ASEAN and enhance ASEAN's capacity to tackle pressing regional challenges.

According to the White House press statement, the US and Southeast Asia benefit from US' far-reaching commercial and trade ties. ASEAN represents the world's fourth-largest market and the United States is ASEAN's largest source of foreign direct investment, while our two-way trade amounted to over USD 360 billion in 2020, the release said.

The White House emphasized that US-ASEAN relations are ultimately anchored in the special friendship shared by our combined one billion people.

"Our ongoing commitment to deepening people-to-people ties is marked by 7000 programs at 83 American Spaces in ASEAN countries, the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative's 155,000 alumni, and the connections forged through nearly 6 million U.S. visas, including student visas, granted to Southeast Asian travelers since 2010," the White House statement added.

To mark the important visit, the United States pledged over USD 150 million in investment to the ASEAN for maritime cooperation, infrastructure, and other initiatives.

"In that spirit, President Biden is announcing over USD 150 million in initiatives which we expect will mobilize billions more in private financing that will deepen U.S.-ASEAN relations, strengthen ASEAN centrality, and expand our common capacity to achieve our shared objectives," the White House statement said. (ANI)

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