ASEAN'S PROFILE TO RISE IN US EXPORT PROMOTION

ASEAN'S PROFILE TO RISE IN US EXPORT PROMOTION

The Commerce Department plans to formally announce Monday an initiative expected to give a further boost to U.S. exporters in Southeast Asia.

The department will expand its "big emerging markets" program to cover all of the Association of Southeast Nations - Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Brunei. Vietnam also will be covered if, as expected, it joins Asean next week.Under the program, Commerce concentrates its export-promotion efforts on countries it finds offer the biggest potential growth markets for U.S. goods and services.

As of now, Indonesia is the only Asean country designated as a big emerging market. Other designated countries are China, India, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, Poland and Turkey.

As part of the initiative, begun two years ago, Commerce Secretary Ronald Brown has been heading high-level business missions to the designated countries. So far, he has visited eight of the 10 countries, and he plans to visit two more - South Korea and Turkey - in coming months.

A spokesman for the U.S.-Asean Council, a group of more than 100 U.S. firms doing business in Asean, called Commerce's decision to include all of Asean in the initiative a "great move." This indicates, he said, that the U.S. government will channel more of its trade-promotion resources to that area.

Asean, which is moving toward free trade among its members, should logically be treated as a group, he said.

The announcement on Asean is due to at a conference the Commerce Deparment is sponsoring here early next week on big emerging markets. The conference, the first of its kind, will bring together about 500 senior government officials and business executives, from both the United States and the big emerging markets.