Indo-Pacific of “great importance” to U.S. foreign policy: Secretary Pompeo

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a press conference at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom at the State Department in Washington, U.S., July 26, 2018. (Photo:REUTERS/Alex Wroblewski)

Washington’s “Indo-Pacific” strategy is a key part of U.S. foreign policy according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Speaking at the July 30 Indo-Pacific Business Forum at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Secretary Pompeo talked about the Trump administration’s strategy “for advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific” noting that U.S. business engagement is at the center of it.

American business, is “a staple of our mission to promote peace, stability, and prosperity,” Pompeo said at the meeting which was attended by a number of top heads of departments and ambassadors of various countries, as well as U.S. business leaders and experts.

President Trump first outlined his vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific at the APEC CEO Summit in Vietnam last year, Pompeo noted, and the National Security Strategy also detailed that vision.

However, Pompeo faced criticism from some attending the conference, for the Trump administration’s protectionist trade measures. Thomas J. Donohue, the president and CEO of the Chamber said protectionism led to the Great Depression and World War II and free trade has kept peace throughout the world since then, the New York Times reported.

“Make no mistake, the Indo-Pacific, which stretches from the United States west coast to the west coast of India, is a subject of great importance to American foreign policy,” Pompeo declared, calling the region, “one of the greatest engines … of the future global economy, and it already is today. And the American people and the whole world have a stake in the Indo-Pacific’s peace and prosperity. It’s why the Indo-Pacific must be free and open.”

“Free and open” meant every nation being able to protect their sovereignty, and that all nations enjoy open access to seas and airways, and the peaceful resolution of territorial and maritime disputes. the Secretary of State explained.

Economically, “open” means fair and reciprocal trade, open investment environments, transparent agreements between nations, and improved connectivity to drive regional ties – because these are the paths for sustainable growth in the region, Pompeo said.

He hearked back to 1794, when the U.S. State Department established a consular presence in Kolkata. “American entrepreneurs, whom most of you in this room represent, have been trading and investing in the Indo-Pacific even longer than that,” he noted, crediting U.S. business with playing a “foundational role in enabling the growth, development, and wealth we see across the entire Indo-Pacific today.”

America, Pompeo said, seeks “partnership, not domination,” and no country does more two-way trade in the Indo-Pacific than the United States. Relationships are characterized by “mutual trust and respect,” the Secretary of State said.

“The successes of the past and present are just a prelude to what I expect will come in the future. I am here to say emphatically that the Trump administration is committed to expanding our economic engagement in the Indo-Pacific region. We seek to capitalize on opportunities in accordance with the principles of freedom and openness,” Pompeo asserted.

Pompeo conceded that President Trump had pulled out of the Trans Pacific Partnership, but said the U.S. is working with countries “to craft better and higher-standard bilateral trade agreements,” and remained “committed to economic engagement because of the national security benefits.”

He announced $113 million in new U.S. initiatives to support “foundational” areas of the future such as digital economy, energy, and infrastructure.

 

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