US announces new initiatives for Asean

US President Joe Biden (second from left) and PM Lee Hsien Loong (fourth from left) pose for an Asean family photo on May 12, 2022. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

WASHINGTON - The United States on Thursday (May 12) announced a list of new programmes with Asean to the tune of US$150 million (S$209 million), aimed at demonstrating that it can be a steady partner to the regional bloc - and competing with China for influence in the region.

Here are some of the programmes.

1. Maritime security cooperation

Roughly US$60 million in total will go towards new regional maritime initiatives mostly led by the US Coast Guard. These include:

- Programmes to help Asean countries counter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, as well as to help them prevent forced labour in the fishing industry.

- Deployment of a cutter vessel to South-east Asia and Oceania for security cooperation, which will also be used as a training platform. The cutter will be deployed throughout the region, and will conduct training missions and take part in "cooperative maritime engagements", said the White House.

- More US Coast Guard support for maritime law enforcement agencies in South-east Asia by placing a training team in the region for the first time.

- Training on energy safeguards, protection of critical maritime infrastructure, and all-hazards response.

2. Clean energy and infrastructure

Another US$40 million will go towards mobilising US$2 billion in financing for clean energy infrastructure, aimed at accelerating the usage of clean energy technologies in the region.

The US will also roll out programmes to help Asean countries fight deforestation, reduce methane emissions and expand conservation. These include a new US-Asean Climate Solutions Hub, which will provide technical assistance to Asean countries.

3. Public health

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, through its new regional office in Hanoi, Vietnam, will roll out a US$5 million programme to strengthen the surveillance of pan-respiratory diseases in South-east Asia.

The US Agency for International Development will support up to US$10 million in programmes to beef up early detection and community response for Covid-19, tuberculosis and other airborne diseases across the region.

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4. Education

The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies will start the US-Asean Institute for Rising Leaders, which will bring public servants from Asean governments to the US for professional and leadership training.

The State Department will double the size of its Young South-east Asian Leaders Initiative programme, as well as double the size of the Fulbright US-Asean Visiting Scholarship Programme. It will also invest US$3 million into English language programmes in South-east Asia.

The State Department will also start a new exchange programme for academic fellows from universities across Asean to travel to the US and explore opportunities to collaborate with US academics.

5. Digital development

The US will introduce a US$6 million regional plan to support innovation, strengthen digital economy rule-making, strengthen digital policymaking, and support the adoption of global standards in artificial intelligence.

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