The East Asia and Pacific region accounts for nearly one-third of the earth’s population, and 25 percent of global gross domestic product. As such, it plays a central role in shaping the course of the world’s economy, maintaining international peace and stability, and addressing key transnational issues such as energy, environment and climate change, pandemics, and nonproliferation.
The region contains 5 of the United States top 15 trading partners and is home to long-standing treaty allies in Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand, as well as security relationships through Compacts of Free Association with the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau. Exponential economic growth in China and elsewhere has created market opportunities for U.S. goods and services while spreading prosperity more widely in the region, creating burgeoning new middle classes, and accelerating regional integration.
Meeting Security Challenges: The United States cannot operate alone in Asia and the Pacific. With five regional allies, there is already a highly effective foundation for cooperation. The robust Comprehensive Partnership with Indonesia and the rapid expansion of U.S. diplomatic relations with Vietnam and Mongolia reflects progress in this effort. North Korea will remain a major challenge, and achieving denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a primary U.S. goal in the region. The United States also continues to work toward full and transparent implementation of all relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.
Enhance and Deepen Engagement in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands: Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands have a collective significance that requires strong U.S. engagement. These nations have sought greater U.S. involvement in the region. The Secretary’s Lower Mekong Initiative is an effort to engage the countries of the Mekong sub-region to protect this fragile watershed and to strengthen cooperative efforts in areas such as health, environmental protection, and education. Because the Pacific Island countries will experience some of the first signs of climatic stress from climate change, environmental programs are a priority. These countries have also taken the lead on a host of other global issues, including responses to extremism, environmental degradation, and promotion of democracy. USAID regional presence in the Pacific will deepen U.S. engagement in the region through activities in environment, health, governance, and economic empowerment.
Reaffirming U.S. Economic Leadership in Creating Economic Stability and Sustainable Growth: In the wake of the global financial crisis, the U.S. strategic priority is to reinvigorate U.S. economic leadership. Although there are pressures to forge Asian stand-alone approaches and create self-sustaining regional organizations, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum Leaders Meeting in November 2011 and the structure of APEC as an institution provide the United States with an unmatched opportunity to demonstrate U.S. economic leadership in the region.
Constructive and Cooperative Relationship with China: China’s continued, dynamic rise is reshaping relationships throughout the region and globally. The ability of the United States to develop a cooperative and comprehensive relationship with China will define the U.S. foreign policy agenda for the future. The Department and USAID are broadening public outreach, planning for rapidly expanding engagement, and working with partners to realize a vision of a region that is prosperous, stable, and democratic.
Promoting Good Governance, Human Rights, and Democratic Institutions in Transitional Countries: The United States will continue to work with countries in the region to combat the scourge of trafficking in persons, promote the rights of women and children, and foster greater religious dialogue among the many communities of faith in the region. The recent establishment of such institutions as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights is a positive sign of greater internalization of human rights in the region.
Shape the Region’s Evolving Multilateral Institutions to address Economic and Non-Traditional Security Challenges: With the growing prominence of the region and the increasing complexity of issues that it faces, there are numerous proposals to create new regional institutions. In 2010, the United States committed to participating in organizations such as the East Asia Summit and the newly formed ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus, and is considering other mechanisms for regional multilateral cooperation. Simultaneously, the U.S. Government will enhance its engagement with existing organizations such as ASEAN, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the Pacific Islands Forum, and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation.
Kunchok Palzang Winrock TSERING Project
Desertification of grasslands in Dzorge County is one of China’s major environmental crises, and the USAID-funded TSERING program responded to this urgent need through anti-desertification training and activities (fencing, planting trees, and fertilizing) in cooperation with the Ruo’ergai Forestry Bureau and the Sichuan Grassland Research Institute. Working closely with villagers, local communities and government, TSERING changed 4,856 acres of desert back into grassland in just a few months, providing a successful example for communities to replicate.