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 trans-boundary threats (such as global climate change, the spread of pandemics and human and animal trafficking), 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 American prosperity through a greater focus on trade and economic openness with Asia. The region already generates more than half of global output and nearly half of global trade. As stated by then Secretary of State Clinton: “as we strive to meet the Administration’s goal of doubling exports by 2015, we are looking for opportunities to do even more business in Asia. In 2010, American exports to the Pacific Rim totaled $320 billion, supporting 850,000 American jobs.”

A major factor favoring the region’s rapid growth is that it has enthusiastically embraced the concepts of globalization and regional integration. Economic integration accelerates growth and poverty reduction. With significant U.S. exports destined to Southeast Asia, the United States has a strong interest in ensuring that integration continues and that countries work together to institutionalize inclusive economic development in the region, reduce poverty, and resolve commonly-shared problems. Regional cooperation is also needed to maximize the benefits of integration, and manage possible adverse impacts, including the spread of communicable human and animal diseases, climate change, wildlife and human trafficking.

What We’re Doing

USAID is providing technical assistance in support of closer integration, peace, prosperity, and health in the Southeast Asia region and in the broader Asia-Pacific region for over seven years. This has involved 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 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: to become a stronger organization as well as providing assistance relating to human rights, disaster preparedness and management, and trade facilitation.
  • Regional Competitiveness and value chain integration: promoting the competitiveness of the ASEAN textile sector by fostering the cross border integration of textile mills and garment factories; also supporting efforts to develop, standardize, and certify the skills of ASEAN textile and apparel sector workers through training and certification.
  • 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.
  • 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, 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’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 has supported linkages between the ASEAN secretariat, other USG partners, and the private sector.
  • USAID’s five year ASEAN Single Window (ASW) Project, in collaboration with the ASEAN secretariat, has promoted the development and automation of streamlined customs/cargo processes and standards harmonization at both the regional and national levels (through national single windows).
  • USAID has also worked with the ASEAN Federation of Textile Industries to help boost the integration of ASEAN’s textile and apparel sectors, encouraging partnerships between ASEAN textile mills and garment factories.
  • USAID assistance has improved the trade enabling environment in Laos, culminating in their accession to the World Trade Organization.

Last updated: June 17, 2014

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