The US business community expanded its commitment to Southeast Asia today by launching the US-ASEAN Business Council’s first official ASEAN Working Committee during the US-ABC’s annual delegation to the 43rd ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) Meeting and Related Meetings held here this week and ended today.

The Committee, chaired by Mr Sam Kim of Procter & Gamble, will channel US private sector support for ASEAN Economic Integration and capacity building for ASEAN and its Member States.

Minister Dr Mari Elka Pangestu, who is the AEM Chair this year and also the Minister of Trade of Indonesia, informed the representatives of the Council that the AEM and the US Trade Representatives (USTR) have agreed to organise a road show to the US to promote ASEAN to the US business community; as well as an ASEAN-US Business Forum in ASEAN next year.

“It is crucial to include both government and business sectors in such initiatives to strengthen and deepen economic integration between ASEAN and the United States. The Business Forum is expected to focus on the selected business sectors that ASEAN and US have mutual interests, among others,” Minister Mari said.

The Council announced the formation of the Committee during its dialogue with the AEM and the Deputy USTR, Ambassador Demetrious Marantis. The Council is the only US-based organisation which attends the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting every year.

“This is a crucial moment for ASEAN”, said Mr Kim. “The ASEAN Member States have recognised the work they need to do to break down barriers to trade in the region, and have laid some impressive groundwork. The key now is for ASEAN to continue successfully implementing its plans for greater integration, which includes executing the ASEAN Single Window, the Logistics Roadmap, and harmonising standards throughout the region. The US-ASEAN Business Council’s ASEAN Committee will organise the US private sector’s support for these efforts.”

He added that “US investments in ASEAN also help create conducive environment for the Small- and Medium- Enterprises (SMEs), too”.

Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr Surin Pitsuwan pointed that out of twenty US companies delegations based in ASEAN, at least six companies have established ASEAN department or business units. This underscores the importance of ASEAN region to the US companies.

Dr Surin also urged the US companies to share their success stories in doing business in ASEAN and promote them through the media.

“ASEAN’s successful integration will create a single market of 600 million people making it the world’s third largest market”, said Council President Alexander Feldman. “The Council has been working with ASEAN for 26 years, but in the intensification of economic integration this is the perfect time to step up our engagement. ASEAN is on the verge of becoming a global household name, and the US private sector is committed to supporting ASEAN’s growth, through capacity building for SMEs and initiatives focused on key growth sectors like infrastructure, consumer products, healthcare, defense, and ICT.”

The Council’s 12-company delegation to the 43rd AEM Meeting and Related Meetings this year consists of Procter & Gamble, Hewlett-Packard, Johnson & Johnson, Cargill, FedEx Express, GE, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Syngenta, UPS, and White & Case.