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Embassy of the Philippines Hosts 50 Years of ASEAN Celebration

By Carrie Snurr

On Sept. 13, the Embassy of the Philippines hosted a celebration for the 50-year anniversary of the founding of the Association of South East Asian Nations.
ASEAN is made up of 10 member countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines, and works to promote regional security, political and economic cooperation. The Philippines is the 2017 chairman of ASEAN and will be hosting the group’s summit later this month.

“Fifty is a special milestone in anyone’s life. This is a time when we really benefit from experience. Tonight we celebrate ASEAN’s golden anniversary,” said Patrick A. Chuasoto, chargé d’affaires of the Philippine Embassy, who was joined by
Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) and Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

ASEAN 50 Years Philippine Embassy
Philippine Embassy Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Minister Patrick A. Chuasoto delivers the opening remarks during the ASEAN 50th anniversary celebration held at the Philippine Embassy Chancery Annex building on 13 September 2017. (Photo: Philippine Embassy)

“ASEAN was formed with humble beginnings and modest aspirations. On the eighth of August 1967, five Southeast Asian nations got together and formed and signed the compact declaration that gave birth to the Association of South East Asian Nations. The declaration consisted of just five articles,” Chuasoto said.

Today, ASEAN has expanded with a legally binding charter and encompasses a region that is the fourth largest export market in the world. In fact, the 10-member bloc boasts a combined GDP of $2.4 trillion, a population of 630 million and a landmass covering more than 1.7 million square miles.

Ann Wagner ASEAN 50 Years Philippine Embassy
Guest of Honor Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO), who is also the Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on ASEAN, emphasized the dynamic partnership between ASEAN and the United States in the past 40 years in her remarks. (Photo: Philippine Embassy)

Wagner, co-founder and chair of the ASEAN Caucus in Congress, congratulated ASEAN on its 50th anniversary, noting that this year also marks 40 years of U.S.-ASEAN relations.

“Over the past year we have been privileged to host roundtable discussions,” she said. “Our purpose is to strengthen U.S. security, economic, technical and humanitarian engagement in the region. Since 1967, the ASEAN countries have successfully cooperated to create one of the world’s most dynamic economic regions.”

She encouraged the United States to further improve its economic relationship with ASEAN countries. Wagner and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) have introduced a resolution in the House that would recognize the 50 years of prosperity ASEAN has brought to its member countries.

ASEAN 50 Years Philippine Embassy
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton, another Guest of Honor, spoke on the 40 years of rich relations between ASEAN and the United States. (Photo: Philippine Embassy)

Wagner promised that she would do everything in her power to build on that partnership. She also pledged to enhance defense and security ties to address issues such as human trafficking and piracy.

“The ASEAN market rivals our market in China,” Wagner said. “ASEAN investment into the United States is over five times that of Chinese investment. Our caucus believes the United States should be ASEAN’s go-to partner for ASEAN trade and investment.”

“I’d like to congratulate the Charge and the Philippines in their chairmanship. We were the first organization outside of ASEAN to adopt the ASEAN name,” Alex Feldman, president and CEO of the US-ASEAN Business Council, said. “Our purpose then is to help American business grow with ASEAN. It is the fourth-largest export market globally. Only Canada, Mexico and China outrank ASEAN as a destination for goods from America.”

US-ASEAN Business Council ASEAN 50 Years Philippine Embassy
US-ASEAN Business Council President and CEO Alex Feldman talked about the ASEAN Economic Community and its progress, and the importance of ASEAN to the United States. (Photo: Philippine Embassy)

He explained how the US-ASEAN Business Council, formed in 1984, has lobbied to strengthen the relationship between ASEAN and the United States.

“America’s private sector has invested more in ASEAN than it has in China, India, Japan and South Korea combined.” Feldman said. “So American business has clearly bet on ASEAN today and its future. We have believed in ASEAN from day one. ASEAN is a unifying force bringing peace and stability to the region.”

He added that the region has also been strategically important, stating that the ASEAN free trade zone has zero tariffs. Feldman also thanked the Trump administration for recognizing the significance of ASEAN countries through actions such as meeting with leaders from ASEAN countries including Vietnam and Malaysia. In addition to Trump’s visit to five Asian nations in early November, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have also visited the region.


Carrie Snurr is an editorial intern for The Washington Diplomat.




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