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Consultations on August 30 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Ministers (AEM), led by Cham Prasidh, the Cambodian Minister of Commerce, and the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk agreed to pursue a further deepening of trade and investment ties.
The meeting noted that trade relations between ASEAN and the US remain strong. Total trade in goods between ASEAN and the US showed a 9.2% increase in 2011, growing from USD178bn to USD194bn. The US remained the fourth largest trading partner of ASEAN and, collectively, ASEAN is the fifth largest goods trading partner of the US.
In addition, the US remained the third largest foreign direct investor in ASEAN, with a foreign direct investment (FDI) stock in ASEAN countries of USD159.6bn, up 11.2% compared with 2010. ASEAN FDI stock in the US demonstrated even stronger growth, increasing 13.1% to USD24.6bn.
The Ministers were also pleased to note the activities implemented under the ASEAN-US Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement (TIFA) in 2012, which included the establishment of a new digital dialogue, and further work under the trade finance dialogue as the US Export-Import Bank continued its outreach efforts to ASEAN member state. Among the initiatives under consideration for 2013 are continued cooperation on trade facilitation and priority areas for ASEAN integration, including small and medium-term enterprise development.
They also welcomed the first ASEAN-US Business Summit, an activity under the 2012 TIFA Work Plan, which was held on the sidelines of the 44th AEM meeting. Over 150 business representatives from ASEAN and the US shared recommendations for promoting economic growth and innovation.
The Ministers expressed the hope that the Business Summit, which focused on how technology can contribute to increased competitiveness, economic growth, and expanded trade and investment, will further enhance the economic cooperation between ASEAN and the US.
Businesses and government officials exchanged views on doing business in the digitized world and how ASEAN can help business of all sizes take advantage of innovations, such as cloud computing, innovations in the food industry, and the use of technology to enhance business competitiveness and trade.
In a statement, Kirk reiterated the Obama Administration's intention to deepen and strengthen trade and investment between the US and the ASEAN nations. “The US's commitment to the ASEAN region is long-term,” he said. “The ASEAN countries together are already a major trading partner for the United States, but we - and the American business community - see enormous potential to grow our mutual trade and investment as ASEAN pursues its own objectives of liberalizing trade in the region, harnessing the digital economy and reducing economic disparities among its members.”
In addition, the USTR and the Cambodian Minister of Commerce also announced that their two countries have agreed to begin exploratory discussions on a potential bilateral investment treaty.
“Our decision to explore a possible bilateral investment treaty with Cambodia demonstrates the US view that the countries of this region can be valuable partners individually as well as collectively in ASEAN,” added Kirk, who also met bilaterally with a number of ASEAN ministers, including those participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.
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