US-Indo Pacific Relations at the 13th East Asia Summit
By Amanda Trea
RSIS and East-West Center held a conference, “Asia Matters: US-Indo Pacific Relations at the 13th East Asia Summit”, on 14 November 2018 at Marina Mandarin Singapore. The session opened with welcome remarks by Prof Joseph Liow, followed by a keynote address from US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Southeast Asia, Patrick Murphy. Mr Murphy reiterated that ASEAN centrality lies at the core of the United States’ strategy in the Indo-Pacific. He also added that the United States looks forward to reaffirming its strategic relationship with ASEAN.
US President Donald Trump’s absence from both the ASEAN summit and the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-Operation (APEC) summit, were noted by Prof Tommy Koh, one of the three panel speakers. Prof Koh commented on the poor optics of the president’s absence, as well as the incongruity between American rhetoric and action in demonstrating its commitment to the region. He put forward two other questions, one pertaining to the abandonment of “Asia-Pacific” as a terminology for a “free and open Indo-Pacific”. He opined that the ideological insinuations will make it challenging for the region to endorse such a term in favour of the long-used “Asia-Pacific”. Second, he expressed concerns that the United States was turning against the liberal international order, which it had created.
Keynote speakers Amb Michael W. Michalak from the US-ASEAN Business Council and Amb Piper Campbell, Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. US Mission to ASEAN, spoke broadly on the importance and continuity of the US-ASEAN relationship. They also took the chance to respond to Prof Koh’s questions and assuage concerns put forth before opening the session to the floor. Assoc Prof Ang Cheng Guan facilitated the question and answer session. The topics discussed included America’s freedom of navigation exercises in the region, America’s interests in the region, and the US-ASEAN relationship going forward.
Following the lively panel discussion, Dr Satu Limaye, Director of the East-West Center, shared report findings on US-Indo Pacific relations at the national, state, and local levels. He also demonstrated the use of the website https://asiamattersforamerica.org, where key statistics and research figures are available in an easy downloadable format.
Last updated on 23/01/2019