It’s been fifty years since the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, was created by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand to promote regional stability and economic cooperation. With the subsequent inclusion of Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, and Cambodia, ASEAN has a combined GDP of some $2.4 trillion, a population of 630 million, and a land mass covering more than 1.7 million square miles.
The U.S. has maintained excellent relations with ASEAN since its creation, and became a Dialogue Partner country of ASEAN in 1977. During his recent trip to Asia, President Donald Trump attended the fifth U.S-ASEAN Summit in Manila and met with several of the region’s heads of state individually.
In speaking to ASEAN leaders, President Trump brought a message of “friendship and partnership” from 350 million Americans. “I’m here,” he said, “to advance peace, to promote security, and to work with you to achieve a truly free and open Indo-Pacific, where we are proud, and we have sovereign nations, and we thrive, and everybody wants to prosper.”
President Trump praised ASEAN for bringing together “a vital assembly of nations” to build consensus on critical issues facing the region and the world, where all nations with a stake in the Indo-Pacific can listen, learn, and develop solutions to common challenges through strategic dialogue.
The United States remains committed to ASEAN’s central role as a regional forum for cooperation. “This diplomatic partnership advances the security and prosperity of the American people and the people of all Indo-Pacific nations,” Mr. Trump said. He noted that in recent decades, nations across the region “have built strong societies, robust economies, and vibrant communities of citizens.”
The United States celebrates that success and also seeks economic partnerships on the basis of fairness and reciprocity. President Trump noted that the U.S. economy is expanding, with unemployment at a 17-year low and the stock market at record highs as previously off-shored companies return to the United States.
“We want our partners…to be strong, independent, and prosperous, in control of their own destinies, and satellites to no one,” said President Trump. “These are the principles behind our vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.”