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US Vice President Kamala Harris to visit Southeast Asia, aiming to counter china's Influence


Kamala Harris

  • U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is expected on Sunday to start her official visit to Southeast Asia — a region where China’s economic and political influence has grown in recent years.
  • The Biden administration is “extremely keen” to make clear that its engagement with Southeast Asia is much broader than the U.S.-China strategic rivalry, said Angela Mancini, partner and head of Asia Pacific markets at consultancy Control Risks.
  • Alex Feldman, president and chief executive of U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, said the U.S. could strike digital trade agreements with countries in the broader Asia-Pacific region.
  • U.S. Deputy President Kamuka Harris is expected on Sunday to begin his official visit to Southeast Asia - a region where China's economic and political influence has grown over the years.

    Harris is expected to arrive in Singapore on Sunday, before heading to Vietnam on Tuesday and leaving the region on Thursday.

    President Joe Biden has prioritized strengthening US stability in Asia, and strengthening relations with Southeast Asian countries is an important part of Washington's policy of keeping China's interests out of control.

    Southeast Asia is home to more than 660 million people and some of the fastest growing economies. The strategic importance of the region lies in and around the South China Sea, an important shipping route through which billions of dollars are traded worldwide each year.

    The visit of the vice president followed several high-level negotiations in the U.S. And the leaders of Southeast Asia. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attended meetings of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations or Asean earlier this month, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited several countries in the region in July, including Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines.
    Biden and Trump

    Compared to Trump’s administration, Biden and his team appear to be more “thoughtful and balanced” in their engagement with Southeast Asian countries, said Angela Mancini, a partner with Asia Pacific markets at risk management consultations.

    He explained that while the U.S. strategic dispute. With China a "first" foreign policy issue in the U.S., Biden officials agree that Southeast Asian countries will not seek a choice between the U.S. In China.

        Biden's management is keen to make it clear that their involvement with Southeast Asia is much greater, much broader than that one problem ...
        Angela Mancini
        Manage Risks

    “The previous authorities were very clear that the U.S. strategic dispute. China was also the first major issue in the region. That sometimes puts countries in a position where they feel they have to choose sides, ”Mancini told.

    "The Biden administration is keen to make it clear that their involvement with Southeast Asia is much greater, more broad than that one issue ... addressing co-operation and engagement," he added.
    The White House in a statement last month said Harris would consult with Singapore and Vietnamese leaders on issues ranging from regional security, the Covid-19 epidemic and climate change.
    Former President Donald Trump has been criticized for his absence from a few key conferences in the Southeast Asian province, which led some political observers to question U.S. commitment to the region.

    What seems uninterested from the U.S. Trump's tenure comes at a time when China is under intense pressure in the region, with programs such as infrastructure investment under the signature of Chinese President Xi Jinping Belt and the Road Initiative.
    Priorities in the U.S. in Southeast Asia

    By choosing Singapore and Vietnam on Harris ’first official trip to Southeast Asia, the U.S. It has shown that it prioritises regional security and economic opportunities in the region, Mancini said.

    The U.S. It has a defense relationship with Singapore and is the largest foreign investor in the Asian financial hub. Meanwhile, the U.S. It has growing trade relations with Vietnam, which is the main enemy of China's largest voice in the South China Sea.

    In economics, trade would be the "most natural way" that the U.S. It has deepened involvement in Southeast Asia - but American politics is a serious obstacle, Mancini said.

    Trump in 2017 excluded the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP, a mega trade agreement that included 11 other countries including those in Southeast Asia. The remaining countries negotiated the agreement and signed a Comprehensive Agreement and Progress for the Trans-Pacific Partnership or CPTPP in March 2018.

    Alex Feldman, president and chief executive of the U.S. ASEAN Business Council, said the U.S. It is unlikely that he will join CPTPP in the short term. The TPP was widely criticized in the U.S. and was not approved by Congress.

    But the United States could negotiate a digital economy with countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Feldman told last week.

    Singapore has digital economic agreements with Australia, as well as Chile and New Zealand.
    Digital Trade Agreement

    The digital economy-based agreement sets out the rules and standards for digital trading between participating countries, such as cross-border data protection and personal data protection.

    "We think ... the bilateral agreement with Singapore makes great sense to help set the rules for the digital economy, which is becoming more and more economical in Asia," Feldman said, adding that a bilateral agreement could be opened. a large door, on many sides in the future.
    While there are “compelling reasons” that the U.S. Following and leading a new digital deal, Washington could have a difficult time convincing other countries to join, said Deborah Elms, executive director of consultancy Asian Trade Center.

    Elms explained in a report last week that such agreements were not new and that the U.S. It will enter “a world full of people.” Deals that include digital programs include CPTPP and China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

    “The United States will need to have a clear and convincing understanding of restarting another trading system and will need to provide a number of potential members. "Other than that, it is possible that the US says it will lead the party and get a few to take over," Elms wrote.

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