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State Dept. announces $113 million in initiatives in Asia

02 August 2018

During the forum, Pompeo and other officials announced new U.S. government initiatives and funding primarily focused on the digital economy, energy and infrastructure.

"At the national level, "free" means good governance and the assurance that citizens can enjoy their fundamental rights and liberties", Pompeo said, addressing the first Indo-Pacific Business Forum organised by the US Chambers of Commerce.

A new pact between Australia, the United States and Japan to invest in the Indo-Pacific is being viewed as a challenge to China's influence but Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says no one country can meet the region's needs.

The initiative will grow foreign energy markets and boost USA energy exports by expanding public-private partnerships, fostering business-to-business connections, and helping partner governments set market-based energy policies.

"We're convinced that American engagement in the Indo-Pacific benefits all the nations in that region". Areas highlighted cover skills training, infrastructure, development, and people-to-people exchange, including tourism and education.

A new initiative with a seeding of US$30 million is being kick-started to offer partners technical assistance as well as access to private legal and financial advisory services.

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"Our strategy seeks to catalyze American businesses to do what they do best in the region".

In addition to Pompeo's remarks, the US, Japan and Australia also announced a trilateral investment partnership, a move seen as an attempt to counter China's growing investment in the region.

While Pompeo stressed that the program did not intend to compete with China's Belt and Road Initiative, his speech spoke to several criticisms levied at Beijing's investments.

When asked about this in a teleconference briefing the previous night, Mr Brian Hook, senior policy adviser to Mr Pompeo, downplayed that aspect.

The $113 million in assistance will clearly not scratch the surface of the financing needs in the Indo-Pacific region. Chief among these is Chinese President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative, a global plan to build or expand highways, railways, ports, pipelines and power plants that Morgan Stanley forecasts could grow as large as $1.3 trillion over the next decade.

"It is a made in China, made for China initiative", he said.

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His comments come amid projections of massive growth potential for the Indo-Pacific - a region that stretches from India's west coast and through Southeast Asia.

"A free and open Indo-Pacific is America's chosen course - and we hope that it will be yours too", he said.

By "open", the United States means all nations must enjoy "open access to sea and air ways", he said. We want the peaceful resolution of territorial and maritime disputes. "Economic security is national security", Pompeo said.

Pompeo said the United States "will oppose any country" which seeks to dominate the region in what appeared to be a reference to Beijing amid heightened tensions in the South China Sea. "The fact is that we demonstrate consistently that Australia is very focused on making sure we can help the least-developed economies in our region". We're looking for partnerships.

Government spending by itself "can never address the Indo-Pacific's needs", he added.

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State Dept. announces $113 million in initiatives in Asia