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Asean & Global Updates
POSTED | 21:39 PM | 15-02-2016

US-ASEAN summit “seeks to counter China’s growth”

US President Barack Obama is hosting leaders from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Southern California on Monday (15 Feb 2016).

The two-day summit is held at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, the same place where Obama held his famous “shirtsleeves summit” with Chinese President Xi Jinping three years ago.

The agenda for the ASEAN meeting, the first ever to be held on US soil, covers a broad spectrum of issues, including security, trade and climate change.

Analysts said the meeting comes as the US steps up its efforts to support its Southeast Asian allies in order to counter China’s growing influence in the region, aljazeera.com reported.

Some ASEAN leaders are concerned about China’s growing boldness in the South China Sea.

The Philippines and Vietnam are two of the countries involved in territorial disputes with China -- and leaders from both countries want guarantees from the US over security.

Other ASEAN member countries, however, do not want to anger Chinese leaders with bold US action.

This lack of consensus over Chinese policy currently divides ASEAN’s member nations and could prove to be a stumbling block for any major developments in the summit, said aljazeera.com.

The US-ASEAN axis, a key part of Obama’s much-heralded “pivot to Asia” strategy, is also seen as one of the most important economic milestones for the White House.

The 10-nation axis is crucial for the growth of many American companies -- US firms are the largest foreign direct investors with a total investment currently totalling $226 billion.

The ASEAN region is already America’s fourth largest export market and contributes over half a million jobs in the US.

The 10-nation bloc also represents the world’s seventh largest economy, with a population of around 625 million people.

More than 100 Southeast Asian politicians have also urged Obama to address human rights issues during his meetings with Asian leaders, according to an open letter posted online on Thursday.

The letter was signed predominantly by politicians from Malaysia, Cambodia and Indonesia, urging Obama to “press (leaders) on unfulfilled human rights commitments and to directly raise specific concerns with them.”

The politicians also said that many of the participating countries have taken “dramatic steps backward” in democratic principles in recent years.

 

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