Commerce ministers of ASEAN will meet for a trade meeting and exchange with US businesses in San Francisco next week. The Feb. 17 exchange coincides with the meeting of ASEAN leaders with US President Barack Obama earlier in the week, in Sunnylands, in Southern California.
The San Francisco meeting, sponsored by the US-ASEAN Business Council, is meant to “elevate the dialogue in the United States about the importance of ASEAN,” Alexander Feldman, president of the council, told VOA Khmer. The meeting will promote business opportunities in ASEAN and explain the ASEAN Economic Community, he said.
Obama’s trade ambassador, Michael Froman, will lead a US delegation, and honored guests will include Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Air Asia CEO Tony Fernandes.
Cambodian Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol, who will attend the conference, told VOA Khmer that he and his delegation are looking forward to expanded partnerships with US corporations.
Feldman said the meeting will allow ASEAN trade ministers and US businesses to focus on both realities and possibilities of investment in Southeast Asia, as it unifies under the ASEAN Economic Community.
“We’ll look at things like ASEAN trade agreements with other parts of the world, including the United States,” he said. “So we will talk about Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, as well as the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership),” he said, adding that some ASEAN countries will likely clarify their stance on the TPP at the conference.
For many US businesses, there will be interest in how ASEAN countries “tackle some of the impediments of trade, and that includes non-tariff barriers,” he said. That includes corruption, a lack of transparency in regulations and other “structural barriers,” he said.
ASEAN’s unity as one trade block will help American companies do business there, Feldman said. “That’s very exciting, and that allows companies to file custom paperwork electronically, and there’s also a single form that everyone will use, no matter which countries in ASEAN that we’re going to enter into,” he said. “ASEAN will take a major step forward.”
ASEAN, with its 626 million people, has the second-fastest growing economy in Asia, after China, with an average growth rate of 5.6 percent and a combined GDP of $2.4 trillion. It is the fourth-largest trade partner with the US, worth around $215 billion.
US investment there can have an impact, Feldman said. And it can do some good. “American companies love to give back and our corporate social responsibility in ASEAN is also among the strongest in Asia,” he said.