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Pompeo announces USD 113 mn in new US investments in Indo-Pacific


Press Trust of India Washington
Unveiling President Donald Trump's economic strategy for advancing a "free and open" Indo-Pacific, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today announced USD 113 million in new regional investments focused on digital connectivity, infrastructure and energy, amidst China flexing its military muscles in the region.
In an apparent dig at China's ambitious One-Belt-One-Road (OBOR) initiative, Pompeo said the US believes "in strategic partnerships, not strategic dependence" and added that it is clearly in America's strategic interest to deepen its engagement in the region.
The US recently renamed its oldest and largest military command - the Pacific Command - to Indo-Pacific Command, in a largely symbolic move to signal India's importance.
"President Trump will strike while the iron is hot, because there are clear economic benefits at hand for the American people. Our Indo-Pacific vision excludes no nation," Pompeo said in his address to the first Indo-Pacific Business Forum organised by the US Chambers of Commerce.
"We seek to work with anyone to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific, so long as that cooperation adheres to the highest standards that our citizens demand. The US is committed to growing our presence in the region because we want Americans and all people of the Indo-Pacific to share in the economic growth of 2020, 2030, 2040, and beyond," he said.
Last year, President Trump said in Vietnam, the Indo-Pacific is "a beautiful constellation of nations, each its own bright star, satellites to none and each one a people, a culture, a way of life, a home."

To burn brightest, this constellation needs the fuel of innovation and sustainable growth, he had said, adding that this is what America's Indo-Pacific strategy will promote.
"I am announcing USD 113 million in new US initiatives to support foundational areas of the future: digital economy, energy, and infrastructure. These funds represent a down payment on a new era in US economic commitment to peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific," Pompeo said.
He asserted that it is clear a big part of America's international economic future is in the Indo-Pacific.
"Our strategy seeks to catalyze American businesses to do what they do best in the region. President Trump also expects our commitment to generate greater support for a free and open Indo-Pacific from all countries that share the vision of a region rooted in sovereignty, the rule of law, and sustainable prosperity," he said, in an apparent reference to China, which claims almost all of South China Sea and resorted to aggressive patrols in recent years.
Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims over the South China Sea.
Pompeo said the US will initially invest a USD 25 million to improve partner countries' digital connectivity and expand opportunities for US technology exports.
Under this the US will support communications infrastructure development through technical assistance and public-private partnerships; promote market-driven digital regulatory policies; and build partners' cybersecurity capacity to address common threats, he said.
"We do this because we recognise the tremendous economic and social benefits that come with an open, secure, and reliable internet," he said.
Through Asia EDGE (which stands for Enhancing Development and Growth through Energy), US will invest nearly USD 50 million this year to help Indo-Pacific partners import, produce, move, store, and deploy their energy resources.
America's energy bounty includes vast natural resources, world-leading private firms, sophisticated development-finance tools, and peerless technical expertise. "We will draw on all of these to grow sustainable and secure energy markets in the Indo-Pacific," he said.
Pompeo announced the launch of an Infrastructure Transaction and Assistance Network to boost the development of infrastructure.
"This whole-of-government initiative, seeded with nearly USD 30 million, establishes a new interagency body to coordinate, strengthen, and share US tools for project scouting, financing, and technical assistance. It also establishes a new Indo-Pacific Transaction Advisory Fund to help partners access private legal and financial advisory services," he said.
"In all these areas digital economy, energy, and infrastructure we look forward to working with allies and partners," Pompeo added.
Headed to the region later this week, President Trump will make further announcements on security assistance.
Noting that government spending alone can never address the Indo-Pacific's needs, and referring to the Asian Development Bank figure that developing countries in the region will need USD 26 trillion for infrastructure alone by 2030, Pompeo said no government or combination of governments has that kind of money. Only the private sector does, he added.
"And only if countries make themselves welcoming to private investment will those trillions of dollars get off the sidelines, into their economies, and into productive enterprises that bring jobs and prosperity to their people. For that to happen, Indo-Pacific leaders must prioritize transparency, anti-corruption, and responsible financing," Pompeo added.

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First Published: Jul 30 2018 | 9:30 PM IST

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