US Vice President Kamala Harris assured Asian leaders on Friday that “America is here to stay” and cast Washington as a trusted economic partner committed to the region and its prosperity.
Harris told leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit that the United States is a “proud power in the Pacific” and has a “vital interest in promoting an open, interconnected, prosperous, secure, and resilient region.”
“The United States has a long-standing economic commitment to the Indo-Pacific, one that is measured not in years, but decades and generations,” he said. “And there is no better economic partner for this region than the United States of America.”
Harris postponed the start of his speech after receiving news that North Korea had fired an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed near Japanese waters. He joined an emergency meeting of the leaders of Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Canada in which he criticized the missile test as a “blatant violation of multiple UN security resolutions.”
“It destabilizes security in the region and increases tensions unnecessarily,” he said.
“We strongly condemn these actions and again call on North Korea to stop further illegal destabilizing acts,” Harris said. “On behalf of the United States, I reaffirmed our steadfast commitment to our Indo-Pacific alliances.”
His remarks at the broader APEC forum capped a week of high-level US outreach to Asia as Washington seeks to counter growing Chinese influence in the region, with President Joe Biden attending the Association of Nations summit first. Southeast Asia in Cambodia, then the G20 summit in Indonesia.
Biden also pushed the message of America’s commitment to the region and met personally with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
After that meeting, he said there “doesn’t need to be a new Cold War” between the two nations, while stressing that when it comes to China, the United States “will compete vigorously, but I’m not looking for conflict.”
Many Asian countries began to question America’s commitment to Asia after former President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific trade agreement, which had been the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s “pivot” into Asia.
The Biden administration has been trying to rebuild confidence and take advantage of growing doubts about the conditions attached to China’s regional infrastructure investments that critics have dubbed Beijing’s “debt trap” diplomacy.
One case that observers have cited as a warning is Sri Lanka, which has been mired in an ongoing economic crisis.
Sri Lanka has borrowed heavily from China over the past decade for infrastructure projects that have failed to generate enough revenue to repay the loans. The resulting debt has contributed to the country’s economic woes even though China was not its biggest creditor.
In October, Sri Lanka began debt restructuring talks with China, a major step toward finalizing an International Monetary Fund bailout of the island nation off the southern tip of India.
Harris told the forum that, by contrast, the billions of dollars of infrastructure investment that the United States is mobilizing with the other G-7 countries for the developing world is “high-end, transparent, climate-friendly and they do not leave countries with insurmountable debt.”
Harris also highlighted Washington’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework released earlier this year, which he said now encompasses a group of economies accounting for 40 percent of global GDP that are “dedicated to equitable growth and high environmental and labor standards.” “, as well as solid private companies. sector alliances.
She said nearly 30 percent of US exports go to the Indo-Pacific and US companies invest about $1 trillion annually in the region.
“America’s approach to these relationships is based on collaboration, sustainability, transparency and fairness,” he said. “Through all our efforts, we will continue to uphold and strengthen international economic rules and norms that protect a free market and create predictability and stability, which is essential to protect business from arbitrary interference, protect nations from coercion economy and protect the rights of workers. .”
He assured the forum that strengthening ties was now a bipartisan priority for the US and that it would be long-lasting.
“As we move forward together, the businesses and economies of this region will find an America that provides immense opportunities for growth,” he said. “A United States that will respect the rules of the road. And an America that will help build prosperity for all.”