February 28, 2023

Castro/Kim-Authored PARTNER with ASEAN Act Advances from House Foreign Affairs Committee Markup

WASHINGTON – Today, the House Foreign Affairs Committee advanced the PARTNER (Providing Appropriate Recognition and Treatment Needed to Enhance Relations) with ASEAN Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Congresswoman Young Kim (CA-40) that would strengthen relations between the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) by authorizing ASEAN to be designated as an international organization with diplomatic privileges and immunities consistent with the International Organization Immunities Act.

“Today’s bipartisan advancement of the PARTNER with ASEAN Act is an important indication of the robust Congressional support for a strong relationship with ASEAN,” said Congressman Castro. “As founding chair of the ASEAN Caucus, I’ve long pushed for the United States to expand our recognition of ASEAN’s central role in Indo-Pacific stability and prosperity. The PARTNER with ASEAN Act will open new channels of cooperation and grant ASEAN diplomats the full recognition they deserve. I thank Congresswoman Kim for her partnership on the PARTNER with ASEAN Act and look forward to bringing our bill to a full vote on the House floor.”

“As we seek to improve the U.S.’s standing in the Indo-Pacific and address the economic threats posed to the region by the CCP, we must also seek to improve trade relations with Southeast Asian countries. This bill, while simple in scope, affords the ASEAN mission in D.C. the same diplomatic privileges that other similar organizations receive. I thank my Foreign Affairs Committee colleagues for supporting this bill out of committee, and I look forward to its consideration on the House floor,” said Congresswoman Young Kim.

The International Organization Immunities Act, enacted in 1945, governs how the United States extends the rights and treaties generally accorded to embassies of countries that have diplomatic relations with the United States to international organizations like ASEAN. The U.S. typically extends automatic privileges and immunities to international organizations to which it belongs (e.g., the UN, NATO), but a special act of Congress is needed to extend recognition to international organizations like ASEAN when the U.S. is not a member.

The PARTNER with ASEAN Act would align the status of ASEAN in the U.S. with other regional groupings like the African Union and would enhance engagement between the U.S. and ASEAN, including by facilitating visits by personnel from the ASEAN secretariat to the United States for dialogues and international events and potentially allowing for a permanent ASEAN mission in the United States.

The United States has worked closely with ASEAN for more than four decades and became the first non-member to name an ambassador to ASEAN in 2008, as well as the first non-member to establish a dedicated Mission to ASEAN in 2010. Congressman Castro is the founder and co-chair of the bipartisan ASEAN Caucus, which launched in 2017.