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Strengthening Institutions in the Asia-Pacific


U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel. (FILE)

The United States depends on a stable, prosperous Asia for its own economic stability and security.

Early in his first term, President Barack Obama intensified U.S. cooperation with the Asia-Pacific region through the “rebalance” policy. This strategy was born of the realization that the United States is a Pacific Rim nation and, as such, is affected by events taking place in the Asia-Pacific region. And as a trading nation, the United States depends on a stable, prosperous Asia for its own economic stability and security.

“There is a lot going on in Asia today, from the dramatic rise of China and the historic reforms in Burma, to the ongoing threat from North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons, to the dangerous tensions in the South China Sea,” said Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel.

That is why one of the best things we can do to help stabilize the region is to invest in its institutions, such ASEAN and APEC. Thus, because a strong rules-based system is essential for progress, we are working with ASEAN and the international community to promote regional structures and arrangements by, for example, developing a meaningful Code of Conduct to help lower tensions and manage disputes.

“Strong institutions harness a powerful force. A force you see in both daily life and in international politics--peer pressure. In fact, ASEAN shows that the best way to create positive peer pressure in the long term is through strong institutions,” said Assistant Secretary Russel.

“Over time, strong institutions can influence the conduct of all their members, helping to avoid conflict and incentivize peaceful resolution of disputes. We see beneficial outcomes of positive peer pressure with environmental issues, in trade, and human rights. It doesn’t work every time, but it’s responsible for enormous progress,” he said.

“The Asia-Pacific region has almost limitless potential, if it can avoid the pitfalls ahead. Strong institutions are key – not just to avoid and resolve disputes, but also to lower barriers to trade, and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“The U.S., as a resident Pacific power and participant in many of the region’s institutions, will do all we can to strengthen those institutions even further.”

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