Vice-President Harris assures Indo-Pacific of US commitment

US Vice-President Kamala Harris waves as she addresses the Apec CEO Summit in Bangkok on Nov 18, 2022.. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK – There is no better economic partner for the Indo-Pacific than the United States, said US Vice-President Kamala Harris as she underscored America’s economic and security commitments to the region in a speech on Friday.

“The United States has an enduring economic commitment to the Indo-Pacific, one that is measured not in years, but in decades, and generations,” she told business and regional leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) CEO Summit held on the sidelines of the economic forum in Bangkok.

She also said that Washington’s approach to regional relations is based on collaboration, sustainability, transparency and fairness.

“Through all of our efforts, we will continue to uphold and strengthen international economic rules and norms that protect a free market and create predictability and stability… In addition, we stand against market distortions and unfair competitive advantages,” she added.

Ms Harris spoke a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping shared his written remarks with the group, pushing for non-discriminatory regional cooperation and strongly condemning the politicisation of trade and economic ties.

The US Vice-President cited the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) launched in Tokyo earlier this year as an initiative demonstrating Washington’s enduring commitment, noting that the Biden administration is pioneering new models of cooperation to strengthen its economic footprint in the long term.

The IPEF is a US-led economic grouping that represents 40 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product under 14 member nations, including Singapore, with the aim to solidify relations and engage in economic, environmental and trade matters in the region.

She also highlighted the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment started this year by the Group of Seven economies, including the US.

The initiative intends to invest US$600 billion (S$824 billion) to fund infrastructure projects in developing countries.

Some analysts consider this initiative as a bid to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has spread across several emerging economies since 2013, including several in the Indo-Pacific such as Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

At the Apec Leaders’ Meeting on Friday, Mr Xi said that China would consider hosting the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation next year, which would be the first staging of the event since the beginning of the pandemic.

He said that China will also continue to share its development opportunities with the world, particularly with the Asia-Pacific region, which he called “our home” and “powerhouse of global economic growth”.

He added: “We need to view Asia-Pacific cooperation from a strategic and long-term perspective, uphold Apec’s role as the main channel in regional cooperation, and keep Asia-Pacific cooperation in the right direction.”

In her speech, Ms Harris said the US has never been more engaged with the Indo-Pacific than it currently is.

“We have infused new energy and leadership into our unrivalled network of global alliances and partnerships,” she added.

The Indo-Pacific region currently receives nearly 30 per cent of US exports and around US$1 trillion in investment yearly from American companies.

Ms Harris said the US will continue to increase foreign direct investment, free flow of capital and the movement of goods and services between the two sides.

“Companies and economies in the region will find a United States that brings immense opportunities for growth. A United States that will uphold the rules of the road. And a United States that will help build prosperity for everyone,” she added.

“The United States is here to stay.”

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