By The Nation
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday launched the Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Washington DC as the economic pillar for his country’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.
To implement the new strategy launched by the Trump administration, the forum will serve as an instrument to expand the US’s economic role in the region, said Brian Hook, senior policy adviser to the secretary of state.
Pompeo left Washington for an Asean ministerial meeting in Singapore after the forum.
“Because our allies and our partners are essential to our goals in the Indo-Pacific, we want to expand economic investment and development,” Hook said in a phone conference with journalists from across Asia and the Pacific.
Officials from Japan, Australia, Singapore, India and Indonesia spoke at the forum, together with members of the American business community.
During the forum, Pompeo and other officials announced new US government initiatives and funding primarily focused on the digital economy, energy and infrastructure.
These sectors are foundations of the Indo-Pacific‘s economic future and the initiatives and funding are designed to accelerate US private-sector investment in the region, support more job-creating US export opportunities, and also to meet the region’s needs for economic growth and development, Hook said, while declining to give details of the funds.
Pompeo will also announce funding to support Asean through US-Asean Connect, the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) forum and the Lower Mekong Initiative, as well as announcing a first-ever US contribution to the Indian Ocean Rim Association, the senior policy adviser explained.
Asked if the Indo-Pacific Business Forum was responding to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Hook said: “We have a vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. It doesn’t exclude any nation. We welcome contributions by China to regional development; we just want them to adhere to high standards and to uphold areas such as transparency and rule of law and sustainable financing.
“So I would not say that this is meant to, it’s not a strategy to counter ‘One Belt, One Road’. The Belt and Road is, for the moment, China’s way of doing things. It is a made-in-China, made-for-China initiative.”
As to the role of India in the US strategy, he said the country remained a key partner in efforts to ensure that the entire Indo-Pacific region was a region of peace, stability and growing prosperity.
“We work very closely with India … and so the US and India are working bilaterally, and we also do that in cooperation with other like-minded partners, especially Japan and Australia, Korea, to advance our shared vision of the Indo-Pacific,” Hook added.