I am pleased to have this opportunity, once again, to affirm the commitment of the United States to our partnership with ASEAN. For two-and-a-half years, the Obama Administration has prioritized our engagement with ASEAN and the region, because we believe it is an important commitment to peace, progress, and prosperity, not only in the Asia-Pacific region, but throughout the world. The countries of ASEAN are home to nearly 600 million people, and represent America's sixth largest export market. And the community of nations represented here today are really important leaders in meeting the global challenges we face together, from climate change, to proliferation, to piracy.
So, from our perspective, ASEAN is where the United States wants to be, which is why we have elevated our relationship. We acceded to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. President Obama first -- hosted the first-ever U.S.-ASEAN leaders meeting. We have sent our first permanent U.S. ambassador, Ambassador Carden, to ASEAN, and joined the ministerial dialogue on defense and security. And we look forward to formally joining the East Asia Summit, which is ASEAN-driven. And today I hope we will agree to a new plan of action, a five-year blueprint for taking the partnership between America and ASEAN to the next level.
So, again, let me thank my colleagues, let me apologize for being a little late in coming to this important meeting. But I am very much looking forward to our work together, to a productive discussion about how you can realize the promise of our partnership. Thank you all very much.