Economic ties between the United States and Southeast Asia are "a high priority", an embassy spokesman said Saturday despite the absence of US officials from a key regional trade meeting.
The US is the biggest foreign investor in Vietnam
Ministers from China, Japan, India and other leading trade partners of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) attended the annual talks which ended Friday in the central Vietnamese city of Danang, but US officials were absent.
Analysts blamed domestic US political factors for the no-show.
"US government economic and trade officials maintain constant and active dialogue with their ASEAN counterparts," the embassy spokesman told AFP.
"And we consider the US-ASEAN economic relationship to be a high priority."
The spokesman, who declined to be named, added that representatives of the US-ASEAN Business Council -- which includes executives from major corporations -- did attend the Danang meetings.
"The American business community is a strong partner for ASEAN," the council said in a statement. It has participated for more than a decade in the annual ASEAN economic talks.
On a visit in June to Vietnam, deputy US trade representative Demetrios Marantis said the US is the biggest foreign investor in the country, which currently chairs ASEAN.
Vietnam and two other ASEAN members, Brunei and Singapore, are part of talks with the US and others aimed at forging the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said in Danang that "we are disappointed" the US could not attend the annual economic discussions but he described Washington's commitment to the region as "quite strong".
Surin said there were "many levels of engagement", and economic ministers from the bloc had visited the US in March.
The US is Southeast Asia's fourth-largest trading partner, with two-way commerce worth more than 149 billion dollars last year, according to ASEAN data.