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United States unveils Indo-Pacific investment plan

02 August 2018

The Trump administration on Monday announced $113.5 million in immediate United States funding to seed new strategic initiatives in the Indo-Pacific region to counter the Chinese threat - both in the economic and defence spheres.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced the new funds for building "foundational areas" of the future of the region as the U.S. did in the past for "enabling the growth, development, and wealth" across the Indo-Pacific.

"These funds represent just a down payment on a new era in USA economic commitment to peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region".

According to a statement issued by State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, the trip will take Pompeo to Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia from August 1 to 5.

"Like so many of our Asian allies and friends, our country fought for its own independence from an empire that expected deference", Pompeo told the US Chamber of Commerce business group.

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Canberra, Washington and Tokyo have been watching with rising concern as Beijing embarks on an infrastructure-building spree across Asia and the Pacific under President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI.

The agreement is in direct competition to China's "One Belt, One Road" infrastructure initiative, and is widely seen as an attempt by the United States to offer smaller nations an alternative to Beijing.

Both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations tried to contend with several of these challenges, including by moving towards bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements and fashioning various initiatives to coordinate, focus, and, with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) only being one example of this.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the U.S. government's development finance institution, also released a statement of cooperation with Japan and Australia.

The remarks by a senior U.S. diplomat came ahead of the announcement by the U.S. of initiatives for development and economic assistance in the entire region.

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

"The United States 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". "It is a made-in-China, made-for-China initiative".

The United States Trade and Development Agency signed an agreement on new energy development in India, and launched a liquefied natural gas cooperation programme with Japan.

He added: "Our way of doing things is to keep government's role very modest, and it is focused on helping businesses to do what they do best".

Critics of Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to recreate the ancient Silk Road trade route, have said it is more about spreading Chinese influence and hooking countries on massive debts.

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"This is created to provide mechanism that will allow more private-sector funding for the infrastructure projects that countries in this region need", Kirchner said. Addressing top US business leaders and foreign dignitaries at the US Chamber of Commerce, he emphasised the critical role of the US private sector in ensuring a sustainable, financially responsible economic future for the Indo-Pacific.

United States unveils Indo-Pacific investment plan