Mekong sub-region countries are dynamic and growing fast. Enhancing U.S. ties with this region is a priority of this Administration. Over 3.5 million Americans are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from Mekong countries, and over 1,000 U.S. companies are active in the Mekong region.
The Mekong-U.S. Partnership (MUSP) demonstrates how the United States leverages multilateral partnerships for the common good. With our Mekong partners, we are strengthening good governance, economic independence, and sustainable development by promoting transparent, rules-based policies. U.S. foreign assistance to the subregion has totaled more than $4.3 billion over the past 12 years, strengthening Mekong economies and societies and providing shared benefits for Americans.
The Mekong-U.S. Partnership is part of broader U.S. support for the region’s ASEAN-centered architecture and the U.S. vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific. We encourage ASEAN to take a greater leadership role in addressing Mekong sub-regional challenges such as food security, environmental degradation, and transnational crime as these issues impact all ten maritime and mainland ASEAN states.
ASEAN’s leadership is also needed to address the military coup in Burma. In my meetings this week, I again called for ASEAN to urge the military to end the violence, restore Burma’s democratic transition, and release all those unjustly detained. I welcomed the selection of Bruneian Second Foreign Minister Erywan as ASEAN Special Envoy to Myanmar and urged the Special Envoy and ASEAN members to act quickly to hold the military accountable to the Five-Point Consensus and to engage all parties, including pro-democracy leaders.
Few challenges to a stable and prosperous future are more urgent than climate change. This Administration brought the United States back into the Paris Agreement and has made climate an essential element of our foreign policy and national security. We were pleased to have Thailand and Vietnam join the President’s Leaders’ Summit on Climate in April, offering their perspectives and commitment to increase climate ambition in the region.
To combat the prevailing threat of the last two years – COVID-19 – the United States has delivered 8.5 million vaccines and close to $60 million in assistance to date to Mekong subregion countries, and we will continue to work closely with local health authorities in pandemic preparedness and mitigation. We provide these vaccines doses free of charge with no political or economic strings attached. The United States is not alone in our values-based approach. We and 13 other countries and institutions coordinate as the Friends of the Mekong, which this year celebrates 10 years of cooperation. At this week’s Friends of the Mekong ministerial meeting, we welcomed the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Secretariat and pledged to continue to support its treaty-based role managing the Mekong River’s shared resources. We reiterated our commitment to good governance and transparency and recommitted to work together to support the region’s sustainable growth.
This coming year, we can look forward together to expanded engagement on issues that affect not just the Mekong region, but the globe, including women’s empowerment, strengthening health systems to prepare for the next pandemic, and raising our climate ambition. The Mekong-U.S. Partnership is putting into action President Biden’s view that we can only meet today’s accelerating global challenges by working together. As we combat the pandemic and recharge our economies, Mekong-region countries can count on the United States and the Friends of the Mekong.