Mike Pompeo pledges United States 'partnership not domination' in 'Indo-Pacific' region

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will address the US Chamber of Commerce's Indo Pacific Forum

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced $113 million in new U.S. investments in the Indo-Pacific region Monday, including $25 million to promote digital connectivity, $50 million for energy projects, and $30 million for infrastructure.

Asserting that the US" commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific was deeply rooted, he said: "Economically, "open' means fair and reciprocal trade, open investment environments, transparent agreements between nations, and improved connectivity to drive regional ties - because these are the paths to sustainable growth".

Reuters said that such comments were made in an apparent reference to "China's growing economic clout and heightened tensions in the disputed South China Sea".

Australia and Japan have joined the United States in a push to invest in infrastructure projects in the Indo-Pacific region, at a time when China is spending billions of dollars on its Belt and Road Initiative across Asia.

The United States' first outlined its strategy to develop the Indo-Pacific economy at an Asia-Pacific summit past year.

Although China says multibillion-dollar investments under the initiative intend to boost growth and trade among some 70 countries from Asia to Europe and Africa, critics argue they favour Chinese companies and are aimed at boosting Beijing's influence overseas while making some countries heavily indebted to China.

Addressing an audience of business leaders, diplomats and senior administration officials, Mr. Pompeo said that the U.S.

"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.

"The way you convince them is that you demonstrate that over the course of history, over the even near term and medium term, that developing relationships with the United States, that having transparency, actually turns out to be better for the leadership and for the people in each of these countries", Pompeo said.

Pompeo said the United States has signed a $350 million investment compact with Mongolia to develop new water sources.

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

In a joint statement with officials from the U.S. and Japan, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the partnership recognised more support was needed to enhance peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.

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

Responding to a question on countries who have been part of the OBOR projects, Pompeo said some of the countries who have engaged in that find themselves in a place that they are not happy about.

Hook said Washington welcomed Chinese contributions to regional development, but said it wanted China to adhere to worldwide standards on transparency, the rule of law and sustainable financing. "This is meant to be an articulation of a robust policy and engagement from the U.S., from the government and from the business community and desire to do so in a way that is collaborative and consultative with our partners and counterparts across the region", she said.

While the United States has always been a significant economic player in the Asia-Pacific, U.S. policymakers have also long contended with the problem of how to engage economically with the region relative to other key players.

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