ASEAN and the US have agreed to upgrade their relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership (CSP) to enhance cooperation in all sectors as well as address challenges of common concern in the region and beyond.

The agreement was announced at the 10th annual ASEAN-US Summit in Phnom Penh late on November 12 in the presence of Prime Minister Hun Sen as the ASEAN chair, the leaders of other ASEAN member states and US President Joe Biden.

Kung Phoak – secretary of state for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and spokesperson for the ASEAN Summit – said this marks a significant milestone in ASEAN-US relations and that it is now necessary for the regional bloc and the US to decide on priority areas to include in the partnership.

“In fact, if we look at the US-ASEAN relationship, it is already comprehensive. It means that ASEAN and the US have cooperated closely in terms of economy, security, society and culture,” he said.

“So, we hope that after the establishment of this comprehensive strategic partnership, ASEAN and the US will further strengthen the cooperation, especially in priority areas such as digital economy, or the joint effort to address issues of common concern,” he said.

In a statement released on November 12, the White House noted an “unprecedented expansion” in ASEAN-US relations, as evidenced by the launch of five new high-level dialogue processes on health, transportation, women’s empowerment, environment and climate, energy as well as deeper engagement in existing dialogues on foreign affairs, economics and defence.

“Under the framework of our newly established US-ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, the US and ASEAN will institutionalise and expand cooperation in each of these important areas, in order to support robust implementation of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and promote a free and open region that is connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient,” said the statement.