Washington, DC…Well, thank you, Sultan, for bringing us together today. And I might say, it’s good to see you again. We met when I was a United States senator. You would — we’ve established a relationship, and it’s good to see you looking well and running this meeting.
Brunei’s leadership has been vital to seeing ASEAN through a very challenging year. And it is my hope that in the future we’ll be able to hold these meetings in person again, because the relationship between the United States and ASEAN is vital — vital for the future of all one billion of our people.
Our partnership is essential in maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific, which has been the foundation of our shared security and prosperity for many decades. And the United States strongly supports the ASEAN Outlook and the Indo-Pacific — on the Indo-Pacific and the rules-based regional order.
Our continued cooperation is only growing more important — not less — more important as we strive together to meet the challenges that are going to shape the 21st century moving forward: tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, taking on the climate crisis, strengthening our cyber defenses, and producing new technologies, upholding freedom of the seas and commerce, and so much more. So much more.
So I’m looking forward to hearing from each of you and to our discussion today, but I want you all to hear directly from me the importance the United States places on our relationship with ASEAN.
You can expect to see us showing up as Vice President Harris did with her recent trip to the region. You can expect to see me personally showing up and reaching out to you.
You can expect to see the United States deepening our longstanding cooperation, pursuing new avenues of ministerial dialogue, investing in our countries, and driving inclusive prosperity in this critical region.
In fact, we intend to launch a new program and initiatives to enhance our cooperation across the range of issues totaling more than $100 million.
Our bottom line is that ASEAN is essential, I want to say — it is essential to the regional architecture of the Indo-Pacific. And the United States is committed to ASEAN’s centrality. You know, it’s a linchpin. It’s a linchpin for maintaining the resilience, the prosperity, and security of our shared region.
And I want you to know I’m looking forward to working with you to advance not only our many shared interests, but our shared values and shared vision for a region where every country can compete and succeed on a level playing field and all nations, no matter how big or powerful, abide by the law.
So I want to thank you all for this opportunity. And I look forward to this being the first of many meetings.