Friday, 24 September, 2021
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US offers South-east Asia to host APEC ’23

NEW YORK: The United States is strengthening its economic engagement with South-east Asia, and is offering to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in 2023, said US Vice-President Kamala Harris in a speech on Tuesday morning at Gardens by the Bay.

The South-east Asian countries are, collectively, the fourth largest export partner of the US, with these trade relations supporting more than 600,000 US jobs, she noted. Advancing “collective economic prosperity” is a key part of the US vision for its participation in the region, report agencies.

“The United States will pursue a free and open Indo-Pacific that promotes our interests, and those of our partners and allies,” she said. In addition to deepening bilateral relations, the US will also work multilaterally through institutions such as Asean, as well as “new results-oriented groups” such as the Quad - comprising the US, Australia, India, and Japan - and the US-Mekong partnership.

Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, who was in attendance with Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, said in a Facebook post that Singapore welcomes the announcement on the US’ offer to host APEC. “This is a strong testament to the US’ leading role in promoting trade, investment, the digital economy and its support for multilateralism,” he said.

He also welcomed her remarks on the US’ continued commitment and engagement in South-east Asia and the broader region, adding: “Singapore will continue to support the enduring and constructive US regional presence and engagement.”

Ms Harris is in Singapore on an official visit, having arrived on Sunday. She will head to Vietnam on Tuesday afternoon.

In her speech, she laid out the US vision for the Indo-Pacific: “Peace and stability, freedom on the seas, unimpeded commerce, advancing human rights, commitment to an international rules-based order, and the recognition that our common interests are not zero-sum.

“Now, as we face threats to that order, I am here to reaffirm our commitment to that vision, strengthen it, and to make sure it addresses the challenges of today and of tomorrow.”

The US stands with its allies and partners against China’s actions with regard to the South China Sea, which “undermine the rules-based order”, she said: “Beijing continues to coerce, to intimidate, and to make claims to the vast majority of the South China Sea.”

Earlier in her speech, she had highlighted the US Navy ship USS Tulsa, docked at Changi Naval Base, as “a symbol of a deep and enduring security partnership between our nations, a statement of America’s security commitment to this region”.

But she added: “Our engagement in South-east Asia and the Indo-Pacific is not against any one country. Nor is it designed to make anyone choose between countries.”

Instead, she said, US engagement in the region is about “advancing an optimistic vision” for its participation and partnership there.

Other areas of cooperation she highlighted were addressing the climate crisis and strengthening global health security in the face of the current and future pandemics.