November 10, 2022

Reps. Castro, Chabot Introduce PARTNER with ASEAN Act to Extend Diplomatic Privileges to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations

WASHINGTON — Representatives Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Steve Chabot (OH-01) introduced the bipartisan Providing Appropriate Recognition and Treatment Needed to Enhance Relations (PARTNER) with ASEAN Act, legislation 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 (IOIA). The IOIA, enacted in 1945, is how the United States extends the rights and treatment generally accorded to embassies of countries that have diplomatic relations with the United States to international organizations.

Rep. Castro, a Democrat, is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Development, International Organizations, and Global Corporate Social Impact and co-chair of the ASEAN Caucus. Rep. Chabot, a Republican, is ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia, and Nonproliferation 

“U.S. engagement with ASEAN has contributed to the stability and prosperity of Southeast Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific,” said Reps. Castro and Chabot “The United States was the first non-ASEAN country to appoint an Ambassador to ASEAN, and we have long recognized that engagement with ASEAN as a whole and the ASEAN Secretariat is an indispensable complement to engagement with individual ASEAN member states. It is our hope that the PARTNER with ASEAN Act will underscore U.S. respect for ASEAN centrality and establish a strong legal framework to allow us to explore new areas of cooperation. Congressional support for U.S.-ASEAN relations is robust and bipartisan, and we look forward to working with our colleagues to move this bill forward.”

ASEAN is a grouping of Southeast Asian nations that facilitates cooperation between member states on issues of common concern. 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. The PARTNER with ASEAN Act would enhance engagement between the U.S. and ASEAN by facilitating visits by personnel from the ASEAN secretariat to the United States for dialogues and international events, and potentially allow for a permanent ASEAN mission in the United States.

Rep. Castro has introduced several pieces of legislation to strengthen the relationship between the United States and ASEAN nations, including: 

  • H. Res. 1106, expressing congressional support for the U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit in May 2022 and for upgrading the U.S.-ASEAN relationship to a “comprehensive strategic partnership.”
  • The Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Act, which would promote people-to-people exchanges between the United States and Southeast Asia and establish the existing YSEALI program in law. (Advanced from the House Foreign Affairs Committee in September 2022)
  • The Southeast Asia Strategy Act, which directs the Department of State to submit to Congress a strategy for engagement with Southeast Asia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner)
  • H.Res.311, recognizing the 50th anniversary of the establishment of ASEAN and expressing Congressional support for the 40 years of U.S.-ASEAN relations and the shared pursuit of economic growth and regional security in Southeast Asia. (Passed in September 2017)