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ASEAN-U.S. leaders institutionalize annual Summit,targeting strategic partnership

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) — The leaders of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the U.S. leader agreed to institutionalize the Leaders Meeting to an annual Summit as a further step towards raising the ASEAN-U.S. partnership to a strategic level, according to a press statement on Tuesday.

The press statement, released by the White House’s Office of the Press Secretary, was made after the Fourth ASEAN-U.S. Leaders’ meeting co-chaired by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, chair of ASEAN in 2012, and U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday evening at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.

“The Summit deepened our diplomatic, economic, security, and people-to-people ties with the key Asian multilateral organization, ” it said, adding that with a population of approximately 620 million and a combined GDP of over 2.2 trillion U.S. dollars, ASEAN is the United States’fourth largest export market.

At the meeting, the United States and ASEAN welcomed the launch of the U.S.-ASEAN Expanded Economic Engagement (E3) initiative a new framework for economic cooperation designed to expand trade and investment ties between the United States and ASEAN, creating new business opportunities and jobs in all eleven countries.

The two blocs’ leaders also endorsed the U.S.-ASEAN Innovation in Science through Partners in Regional Engagement (INSPIRE) initiative to enhance science and technology cooperation between the U.S. and ASEAN.

“INSPIRE will strengthen our collective approach to achieving important science and technology, disaster preparedness, and health objectives and deepen ties between ASEAN and U.S. scientific communities,” the statement said.

Besides, leaders discussed the importance of building the role and influence of the East Asia Summit so that it can effectively address pressing political and strategic issues in the region and they also discussed the importance of putting mechanisms and processes in place to peacefully manage disputes over competing claims in the South China Sea.

“In this context, they expressed support for the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’Statement on “Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea” and called for early conclusion of a Regional Code of Conduct, ” it said.

At the meeting, the U.S. government announced the creation of the Expanded ASEAN Seafarer’s Training (EAST) program to improve counter-piracy training and education in the region.

The ASEAN region is home to over half of the world’s seafaring workers, it said, adding that the program, administered by the Maritime Administration under U.S. Department of Transportation, will be expanded from its current pilot phase working with the Philippines.

Meanwhile, to further enhance cooperation confronting the shared challenge of piracy, Washington announced its intention to join the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia.

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