Building on President Donald Trump’s “Indo-Pacific” strategy, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will announce a series of investment initiatives in Asia on Monday focusing on digital economy, energy and infrastructure.
The announcement, to be made at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum in Washington, comes at a time when trade frictions with China have given U.S. trade diplomacy a sharper edge.
“The Indo-Pacific is an absolute priority of U.S. policymakers in the executive branch and in Congress,” Brian Hook, Pompeo’s senior policy advisor, told journalists in a conference call.
Countries in the region have been worried by Trump’s “America first” policy, withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, and pursuit of a trade conflict with China that threatens to disrupt regional supply chains.
The United States’ first outlined its strategy to develop the Indo-Pacific economy at an Asia-Pacific summit last year.
“Indo-Pacific” has become known in diplomatic circles as shorthand for a broader and democratic-led region in place of “Asia-Pacific,” which from some perspectives had authoritarian China too firmly at its center.
The Chamber of Commerce said on its website that the Indo-Pacific could account for half the world’s economy within decades, but needed investment of nearly $26 trillion in order to fulfill its potential.
The new U.S. initiatives and funding would be focused on digital economy, energy and infrastructure, Hook said, without giving any figures on investment amounts.
Aside from Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will also attend the forum, along with officials from Japan, Australia, Singapore, India and Indonesia.
China’s way, US way
Hook said the United States approach to development of the region was not aiming to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which comprises of mostly state-led infrastructure projects linking Asia, parts of Africa and Europe.
“It is a made in China, made for China initiative,” he said.
“Our way of doing things is to keep the government’s role very modest and it’s focused on helping businesses do what they do best.”
Critics of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to recreate the ancient Silk Road, say it is more about spreading Chinese influence and hooking countries on massive debts.
Beijing says it is simply a development project that any country is welcome to join.
Hook said Washington “welcomed” Chinese contributions to regional development, but it wanted China to adhere to international standards on transparency, the rule of law and sustainable financing.
“We know that America’s model of economic engagement is the healthiest for nations in the region. It’s high-quality, it’s transparent and it is financially sustainable,” Hook said.