Asia Regional Context

Southeast Asia is a diverse region, encompassing some of the world’s wealthiest countries and some of its poorest. Consequently, the development challenges the region faces are also numerous, complex, and varied. Most of these challenges are best dealt with by nation-states. However, other challenges, including increasing regional and international trade and managing transboundary threats (such as trafficking in persons, global climate change and illegal trade of wildlife), depend on concerted cross-border and international efforts and cooperation.

The rapid growth of the Asia-Pacific region, as well as its embrace of economic globalization, have resulted in renewed emphasis by the United States on promoting global prosperity through trade, economic openness and sound governance practices within Asia. The region already generates more than half of global output and nearly half of global trade.

A major factor favoring the region’s rapid growth is that it has enthusiastically embraced the concepts of globalization and regional integration. Economic integration can accelerate growth and poverty reduction, but also needs to be done in a manner which is sustainable and which promotes economic inclusion and broad-based participation in emerging economic opportunities. The United States has a strong commitment to fostering regional and global economic integration, and in helping continues to work together to institutionalize inclusive economic development, poverty reduction and resolution of commonly-shared problems.

What We’re Doing

USAID is providing technical assistance in support of closer integration, peace, prosperity in Southeast Asia and the broader Asia-Pacific region. This involves working closely with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ASEAN Secretariat, and the ten ASEAN member states, as well as with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat and APEC member States.

In recent years, the USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia (RDMA), has provided technical assistance to ASEAN focusing on enhancing the Association’s ability to achieve political, security, and economic objectives as well as promote fair and sustainable human development and improve regional connectivity.

Recent initiatives include:

  • Capacity Building for the ASEAN Secretariat and Working Groups: to become a stronger organization for promoting regional cooperation in areas such as human rights, transnational crime, disaster preparedness and management, and trade facilitation.
  • Youth Development: supporting the ASEAN Youth Volunteers Program and developing approaches to increase the number of skilled workers in ASEAN targeted-priorities by improving the quality and reach of education at universities and vocational schools in the least developed countries. 
  • Promoting Science and Technology: supporting ASEAN to further institutionalize science-based, data-driven decision making, and to raise awareness about the role of data and research in policymaking through the media, the private sector and civil society.
  • Advancing Trade: helping ASEAN establish the ASEAN Single Window for customs clearance, a hallmark of ASEAN’s progress in economic integration  that will speed clearance procedures, lower costs for businesses and increase trade.
  • Connecting ASEAN and U.S. Businesses: the US-ASEAN Business Alliance for Competitive SMEs combines the expertise and resources of USAID and major U.S. corporations through the US-ASEAN Business Council to provide training programs, mentorship opportunities, and cloud technology to increase small business access to finance, access to regional and international markets, and access to technology and innovation.
  • Laos Economic Integration: assisting the Government of Laos to modernize and adapt its legal system and economic policies to meet the requirements of various trade agreements, including the World Trade Organization, the 2005 U.S.-Laos bilateral trade agreement and the ASEAN Economic Community.

USAID RDMA’s support for APEC has focused on:

  • Capacity Building: including a broad range of capacity-building support to the APEC Secretariat intended to strengthen IT systems, improve personnel and financial management systems, and generally build staff capabilities so that the Secretariat becomes a stronger, more strategically managed institution.
  • Trade and Investment: strengthening APEC’s ability under the Trade and Investment Liberalization Pillar to promote and support further liberalization of trade in goods and services and investment flows as well as the multilateral trading system in general.
  • Business Facilitation: strengthening APEC’s ability under the Business Facilitation Pillar to improve the business environment to reduce costs of business transactions, improve access to trade information and align policy and business strategies to facilitate growth and free trade.
  • Economic and Technical Cooperation: strengthening APEC’s capabilities in specific sectors such as transport and communications under the Economic and Technical Cooperation pillar to take advantage of global trade.
  • Future Support for APEC: Going forward, USAID RDMA’s support for APEC will focus on enhancing APEC’s ability to make progress towards regional economic integration; strengthening member economies’ ability to improve and better align domestic policy and regulatory environments to promote cross-border trade; and enhancing APEC’s ability to promote human security and human development.

What We’ve Achieved

USAID assistance to ASEAN has made significant contributions towards the establishment of the ASEAN Community in 2015.  In economic integration, USAID and ASEAN have worked closely together since 2008 to establish the ASEAN Single Window for customs clearance, scheduled to be launched in 2015 as the first of its kind in the world.

The first cadre of seven U.S.-ASEAN Science & Technology Fellows fellows are working on issues related to biodiversity, climate change, water managements, health, and early warning systems for disaster risk reduction in Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand and the Philippines.

USAID supported the installation of a state-of-the art  disaster monitoring and response system for ASEAN at the Jakarta-based ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) so that responders can immediately see the big picture, which improves response times and leads to more efficient use of relief resources. USAID continues to support increased functionality within this system as well as the development of standard curricula for training disaster management professionals around the region.

USAID’s technical assistance has strengthened APEC in cross border services trade, corporate governance, public consultation in the rules making process, environmental goods and services, investment dispute prevention and resolution, disaster preparedness, and microfinance.

USAID financial training support has helped make the APEC Secretariat more effective, efficient and sustainable.

USAID assistance has improved the trade enabling environment in Laos, culminating in their accession to the World Trade Organization.

Last updated: July 20, 2015

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