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US-ASEAN Summit to Remake Indo-Pacific Strategy
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US-ASEAN Summit to Remake Indo-Pacific Strategy

Staff

The US administration wants to realign its strategic interests with Southeast Asian countries. Amidst the criticism that the partnership with ASEAN has fallen short, the US is now looking to advance a new Indo-Pacific strategy.

A $150 Million Investment Pledged on Summit

During a US-ASEAN special summit in early May, the US pledged $150 million in order to advance key regional issues. The majority of ASEAN member states welcomed this.

The funds will go to issues such as maritime security and pandemic preparedness, as well as clean energy. Despite being welcomed, these measures lacked substantial trade commitments. ASEAN members want access to the US market to reduce their reliance on China.

The same criticism came from within the US. Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, called the IPEF a "weak substitute for the real thing," claiming that the framework focused too much on labor and environmental standards while ignoring market access agreements.

"I think (when it comes to) the administration's reluctance to enter into new trade agreements, this is sort of being offered up as an alternative, but it's not," said Cornyn. "It's not what I would hope for in terms of getting new trade agreements."

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Green Energy and Strong Supply Chains

Although it has fallen short of some key aspects, the summit was nevertheless a step forward. Green energy, strong supply chains, and alliances are all central to the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). It aims at free and open trade in the Indo-Pacific while improving environmental, cyber, and labor standards in the region.

US deputy secretary of commerce Pamela Phan explained, "first and foremost, with the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, we are looking at conversations about infrastructure, decarbonization, and clean energy as a key focal area," she said. "The more inclusive we can be with IPEF, the more countries in the region we can engage on these issues."

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