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  August 14th, 2023 | Written by

New York City Mayor’s Presence at ASEAN Flag-Raising Ceremony Goes Down Well with ASEAN Diplomats 

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ASEAN emerges as a promising economic and trading partner 

While Washington is the nation’s political capital, New York City is unquestionably the world’s financial capital. The Big Apple also has the world’s largest cluster of foreign consulates and trade missions, not to mention an equally large presence of foreign permanent representations to the United Nations in New York City.

But many financial pundits fear that the rampant violence and crime in the city could adversely affect New York’s image as the global financial capital, also forcing investors and businesses, particularly the small businesses that form the economy’s backbone, to leave the city.  

The city’s mayor Eric Adams has been actively reaching out to the business community, and assuring them of a safe environment to do their business. 

Adams, who maintains contacts with foreign diplomatic and trade missions, has also been attending many diplomatic, business and cultural events, earning goodwill and strengthening the city’s ties with the international community.    

Adams recently attended a major event organized at the city’s historical Bowling Green site by the consulates of the member countries of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) group to celebrate the 56th anniversary of the group’s founding in Bangkok. 

Bowling Green, located in the heart of the city’s financial district, is of historic significance: besides being a colonial center of activity in the 17th century, the site was previously used as council grounds for the Native American tribes, besides being a parade field and market where people would sell and buy livestock for their farms.

The ASEAN group has ten member states: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. 

The guests included top officials representing various agencies of New York City, high-ranking diplomats a number of ASEAN member states and other countries, and also ASEAN businesspeople and nationals living in the United States. 

Because of Indonesia’s rotational presidency of the ASEAN group, it fell on Winanto Adi, Indonesia’s consul general in New York, to address on behalf of his ASEAN counterparts and highlight the special significance of the first ASEAN flag-raising ceremony in New York, as also the group’s growing political, cultural and economic strength. 

While felicitating the diplomats on ASEAN’s 56th anniversary, Adams emphasized he was honored to be the first mayor of New York City to jointly perform the ASEAN flag-raising ceremony.  He also praised the contributions by ASEAN citizens and businesses to the city’s socio-economic development.

Malaysian consul general in New York, Amir Farid Abu Hasan, told the Global Trade that the businesses in Malaysia and the ASEAN region were keen to increase trade and investments with New York and the entire United States.

New York City, which routinely seeks to intensify trade and business ties with foreign countries, sees potential for developing business ties with the ASEAN member states whose combined population of some 667 million offers a large market besides being rich in minerals and raw materials, and providing access to one of the world’s most dynamic growth regions.  Also, some of the ASEAN countries are being looked at as alternative business partners by Americans keen to drastically reduce their trade dependence on China and identify manufacturing sites in neighboring countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc. 

“It’s not wise to put all your eggs in one basket,” was the advice one New York based ASEAN businessman gave, obviously, making a veiled reference to China.

Adams highlighted the social-cultural openness of American society which absorbed foreign cultures and characteristics:  “And America is the only country on the globe where you are told, as you embrace this culture, you don’t have to abandon your culture. In fact, you are encouraged to bring both cultures together, to bring that energy, that unique product in New York City that is an accumulation of all of our different foods, our sounds, our spirits, our ways of religious philosophies and concepts.”

The mayor, sporting a baseball cap and attired in a white polo shirt, urged the ASEAN representatives in a light-hearted vein to tell their countrymen visiting New York City “to spend money, spend a lot of money in New York”. 

Why ASEAN Matters

ASEAN’s economic and strategic significance becomes obvious because of its location in the Indo-Pacific region, and its geographically dominant position at the crucial Strait of Malacca through which much of the world’s East-West trade flows.  

According to the US-ASEAN Business Council in Washington, the ASEAN collectively is projected to grow by over 5% per year to become the world’s fourth largest economy 2030.  It is also the United States’ fourth largest export market in the world, with exports of U.S.-made goods exceeding $122 to the ASEAN annually, with all 50 states exporting to ASEAN and 29 states exporting over $1 billion each year. This supports more than 625,000 American jobs while in 13 US states, ASEAN accounts for more than 20% of export-dependent jobs to the Indo-Pacific.  ASEAN collectively has a combined GDP of $3.2 trillion. 

ASEAN has emerged as the number one destination for U.S. investment in the Indo-Pacific, attracting more than $338 billion in U.S. foreign direct investment. With 915 million mobile connections, this region is the world’s fastest-growing internet market. The region’s digital economy is projected to exceed $300 billion by 2025; ASEAN is among the top five destinations for U.S. food and agricultural exports, amounting to $13.7 billion, including over $2 billion in soybeans and $1.6 billion in cotton. More than 34% of Asian Americans identify with an ASEAN ethnicity (over 7.6 million people).  

ASEAN has “transformed the region into an economic powerhouse”, as Edward Mermelstein, New York City Commissioner for International Affairs, observed in his speech. 

The author, Manik Mehta, is a New York-based journalist specializing in foreign affairs/diplomacy, global economics/trade, and emerging markets.