Ahead of Merkley-led Congressional Delegation visit to Vietnam & Indonesia, resolution promotes strong U.S.-ASEAN partnership promoting peace, security, and stability in the Indo-Pacific region

Monday, April 3, 2023

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and Maryland’s U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen introduced a resolution reaffirming the important role that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plays in the Indo-Pacific region. The resolution comes ahead of a Merkley-led Congressional Delegation to ASEAN member-countries Vietnam and Indonesia, which Senator Van Hollen will join. 

“Southeast Asia is one of the most dynamic regions in the world, home to hundreds of millions of people who will be pivotal in addressing the economic and security challenges that will define the 21st century,” said Senator Merkley, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “This resolution reaffirms crucial support for the central role that ASEAN plays in the Indo-Pacific, and especially for increasing economic growth and regional stability. Now more than ever, we must strengthen our partnerships and help promote cooperation and stability in the Indo-Pacific region in order to overcome challenges to democracy, human rights, and a rules-based order.”

“The United States’ close relationship with our ASEAN partners plays a key role in our foreign affairs, as well as our nations’ mutual priorities of promoting economic growth, regional stability, climate solutions, and more. As the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific, I’m committed to continuing to strengthen these partnerships,” said Senator Van Hollen, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific.

With more than 686 million people and a GDP of $3.3 trillion, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations would have the third largest population and fifth largest economy in the world if it were a country. ASEAN serves to promote economic growth and regional stability among its members and contribute to a rules-based international order. During the 10th annual U.S.-ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, President Biden and ASEAN leaders worked to elevate U.S.-ASEAN relations to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.  The framework established through the Biden Administration and ASEAN leaders has expanded and strengthened U.S.-ASEAN relations, including the launch of five new high-level dialogues on health, transportation, gender equality and women’s empowerment, environment and climate, and energy. Additionally, there has been elevated engagement on foreign affairs, economics, and defense between the U.S. and ASEAN member states.

President Biden has reaffirmed the United States’ strong support for ASEAN centrality and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and has invested $60 million in new regional maritime initiatives and over $860 million in assistance to ASEAN partners to support the environment, access to education, strengthened health care systems, security modernization efforts, rule of law, and human rights.

Furthermore, the Senators’ resolution spotlights important economic and cultural initiatives, including the Mekong-U.S. Partnership to promote sustainable, long-term economic development throughout mainland Southeast Asia, and strengthening U.S.-ASEAN relations anchored in friendship, education, and cultural exchanges, such as Fulbright, the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), and Peace Corps. Fulbright exchanges have supported 650 students, teachers and scholars from all 10 ASEAN member states in programs between the United States and ASEAN. YSEALI is commemorating 10 years of offering exchanges, small grant funding and other programs that have helped develop ties between the United States and ASEAN members. The Peace Corps has programs in five ASEAN member states—Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam—to promote English language learning and literacy, and currently seven ASEAN member states have sister city, state, and county links to 23 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

The Senators’ resolution:

  • Promotes deepening cooperation with ASEAN member states under our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership to promote peace, security, and stability in the Indo-Pacific region;
  • Commemorates the 10th anniversary of YSEALI on December 3, 2023;
  • Commends the work and mission of the Peace Corps in the region;
  • Celebrates the 10th anniversary of our comprehensive partnership with Vietnam;
  • Congratulates Indonesia for its successful leadership as Chair of the G20 and U.S.-ASEAN coordinator in 2022 and supports its role as ASEAN Chair in 2023;
  • Applauds the U.S.-Indonesia Strategic Partnership, Indonesia’s leadership on the issue of women and girls’ education in Afghanistan, and Indonesia’s dedication to renewable energy and a transition away from fossil fuels;
  • Reaffirms the importance of the Mekong-U.S. Partnership and the value of transboundary cooperation across the Mekong sub-region;
  • Encourages ASEAN to play an active role in bringing about an end to all forms of violence in Burma; and
  • Supports the people of Burma in their quest for democracy, sustainable peace, and genuine ethnic and religious reconciliation.

Full text of the resolution can be found here.