Biden deepens ties with ASEAN to counter China’s growing influence

Phnom Penh, Nov 12 (EFE).- United States president Joe Biden and leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Saturday launched a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership as Washington pledged to ramp up investments to counter China’s growing influence in the region. 

As part of deepening relations between the US and the Southeast Asian bloc, Biden announced an $850 million aid package at a bilateral meeting with ASEAN members in Phnom Penh on the sidelines of the bloc’s annual summit.

The US president said ASEAN members were at “the heart of my administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy.”

(L-R) Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, US President Joe Biden, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen smile during a group photo at the 10th ASEAN ñ U.S. Summit, part of the 40th and 41st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Summits in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 12 November 2022. EFE/EPA/KITH SEREY

Biden noted that the comprehensive strategic partnership brings Washington and ASEAN members closer to jointly tackle challenges related to climate, food security and security threats, as well as “to build an Indo-Pacific that’s free and open, stable and prosperous, resilient and secure.” 

The US president listed different sectors in which his country is working with the region, including electric vehicle research, green energy, greater connectivity and sustainable development.

Biden, who seemed tired after arriving from the climate summit in Egypt on Saturday, got confused as he opened talks chaired by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen saying: “I want to thank the prime minister for Colombia’s leadership as ASEAN chair.” 

After the summit in Phnom Penh, which ends Sunday, Biden will travel to Bali (Indonesia) to join in the G20 summit.

The Cambodian premier thanked the US for its support to the ASEAN and highlighted the importance of relations that have been in place for more than four decades.

After years of a diplomatic freeze between the US and ASEAN due to former US president Donald Trump’s lackluster approach to relations with regional leaders, Biden has vowed to step-up ties with the bloc to counter Beijing’s growing influence in the area. 

In 2007, the US also created its own forum in the region known as the Quad alliance with Australia, India and Japan in a bid to ramp up its regional presence. 

The China-US rivalry in Southeast Asia is also waged on an economic level, with Beijing also enjoying the status of a comprehensive strategic partner with the bloc.

In 2021, the trade balance between ASEAN members and China came to $668.9 billion, compared to $364.4 billion with the US, while Beijing’s investments in the region were $13.5 billion, compared to Washington’s $40 billion.

The ASEAN bloc was founded in 1967 and includes Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand. EFE

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