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Mar 27, 2023 | In The News

The U.S. House of Representatives on March 23 voted 388-33 to pass a bipartisan bill offered by U.S. Rep. Young Kim (R-CA) that would improve the partnership between the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which is Southeast Asia’s primary multilateral organization that has 10 member nations, including Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam.

“Ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific, especially as we see economic and security threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the region and the Belt and Road Initiative, requires the United States to bolster relations with Southeast Asian countries,” said Rep. Kim, chair of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Indo-Pacific. “Without meaningful engagement, we leave the region little choice but to turn to the CCP.”

The House-approved Providing Appropriate Recognition and Treatment Needed to Enhance Relations (PARTNER) with ASEAN Act, H.R. 406, which Rep. Kim cosponsored on Jan. 20 with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), would establish that the ASEAN be covered by the International Organizations Immunities Act, which provides immunities and privileges to certain international organizations, such as immunity from certain lawsuits and exemption from property taxes, according to the congressional record bill summary.

“I thank my colleagues for supporting the PARTNER with ASEAN Act and Rep. Castro for partnering with me on this bipartisan effort,” said Rep. Kim. “As Indo-Pacific Subcommittee Chair, I will keep working to promote U.S. leadership in the region, strengthen relationships with our Indo-Pacific partners, and ensure freedom and sovereignty prevail on the world stage.” 

Charles Freeman, senior vice president for Asia at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Marc Mealy, senior vice president at the US-ASEAN Business Council, endorsed the bill, which now heads to the U.S. Senate for action.

“Today’s swift passage of the PARTNER with ASEAN Act demonstrates the deep bipartisan commitment to a strong U.S.-ASEAN relationship,” said Rep. Castro on Thursday. “Providing routine diplomatic privileges and immunities to ASEAN is an important step to underscore our recognition of ASEAN centrality and explore new areas of cooperation.”

The Ripon Advance

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