11:44 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Welcome to everyone. I’m looking forward to the time we will spend together today. And I welcome you. And I — you will see the President later today, but I cannot emphasize enough the importance to the United States of being a part of this august group and the work that we have done together over the years and will continue to do.
So I will formally welcome the leaders of ASEAN nations to Washington, D.C., and I thank you all for being here.
We, in the United States, value the importance of this summit. It is a signal to the world of the strength of the United States-ASEAN partnership. Southeast Asia is a priority for our entire administration.
And we have many priorities in common. At this lunch, we will discuss two of them: the issue of global health and maritime security.
Later today, we will meet again to discuss climate, clean energy, and infrastructure. And later, of course, you will meet with President Joe Biden.
As you all know, last year I decided to travel to Singapore and Vietnam early in our administration to demonstrate our commitment to Southeast Asia and to strengthen our partnerships in the region.
I remain personally very focused on deepening our relationship with ASEAN and all of your nations. And I will once again make clear: The United States has an enduring commitment to Southeast Asia.
Our administration recognizes the vital strategic importance of your region, a role that will only grow with time. And we recognize ASEAN’s centrality in the region’s architecture.
As an Indo-Pacific nation, the United States will be present and continue to be engaged in Southeast Asia for generations to come.
Our partnership with ASEAN also directly affects the prosperity and security of the American people. On the issue of prosperity, resilient supply chains in Southeast Asia benefit American consumers. When global supply chains are flowing, more goods are available and prices, of course, come down.
Southeast Asia is the fourth-largest market for American goods. And our economic relationship supports more than 600,000 American jobs.
On the issue of security, when I was in Singapore, I visited the Changi Naval Base and met with American soldiers — and sailors — excuse me — on the USS Tulsa.
Their presence is a demonstration of our work with our allies and our partners to ensure free and open shipping lanes and to defend the international rules-based order.
The United States and ASEAN have shared a vision for this region. And together we will guard against threats to international rules and norms.
To that end, one of the main topics of our lunch will be maritime security.
We stand with our allies and partners in defending the maritime rules-based order, which includes freedom of navigation and international law.
When I was in Hanoi last year, we discussed strengthening the partnership between our coast guards. I also believe we must significantly grow our partnership with ASEAN as a whole.
To that end, I’m pleased to announce that the United States will provide $60 million in new regional maritime initiatives led by the United States Coast Guard.
Among those initiatives, we will deploy to Southeast Asia a new cutter as a training platform. This is intended to benefit all nations in the region as we conduct multinational training missions to assist in building your capacity.
We will also be sending additional personnel, including technical experts, to the region.
On health, COVID-19 has had a profound impact on your countries and economies, as it has had on ours.
We have done a lot together in the past two years and have made remarkable progress. The United States is proud to have donated more than 115 million vaccines to ASEAN members without conditions.
As I said yesterday at the COVID Summit, complacency is not an option. We must respond together to the current threat and prepare for the future. As long as COVID is present in any one country, it affects us all.
We will continue to work with all of you to save lives with vaccines, with testing, and with therapeutics.
We must also think, of course, about the future and prepare for future pandemics.
I look forward to our discussion this afternoon on all of these topics, and continuing to do the work that we will do together to strengthen the partnership that exists between our nations.
And with that, let us get to work. I thank the members of the press for joining us for this part. And we will now proceed with the rest of our meeting. Thank you.
END 11:51 A.M. EDT