America’s “Indo-Pacific Economic Vision”

Photo: U.S. Department of State. "Secretary Michael R. Pompeo delivers the keynote address." 30 July 2018. Flickr online image.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently set out an inspiring vision for how the American government and private sector can work together with countries in the Indo-Pacific to promote peace, stability, and prosperity.

Although the bulk of the details have yet to be worked out, AmCham Taipei applauds the Secretary’s remarks as long-sought recognition of the vital importance of beefing up the U.S. economic presence in the Indo-Pacific region in the face of ever more severe competition from China. He delivered a clear message that the Trump administration’s decision last year to walk away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership should not be interpreted as a weakening of American commitment to this part of the world.

At a time when free trade has all too often come under fierce attack, the Pompeo speech was also a welcome affirmation of the positive contribution that fair and responsible international trade and investment can make to global security and prosperity.

Also heartening was Pompeo’s explicit inclusion of Taiwan among the economies in the region that have enjoyed strong partnership with the United States in the past and that can be expected to play an active role in the future in the new initiatives being proposed.

“In Taiwan, economic development went hand-in-hand with creating an open, democratic society that blossomed into a high-tech powerhouse,” Pompeo said, addressing a business forum in Washington D.C. sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on July 30.

America’s unwavering dedication to the shared principles of freedom and openness were a recurring theme throughout his remarks. So were other principles – high standards, transparency, and adherence to the rule of law – that Taiwan has shown its willingness to embrace.

The three specific initiatives that Pompeo outlined in his speech are all highly relevant to Taiwan:

  • Digital Connectivity and Cybersecurity Partnership. These are areas that the Taiwan and U.S. governments have already been exploring as opportunities for cooperation. With its strong background in technology industries and prominent participation in the supply chains of key U.S. companies, Taiwan has much to offer in helping to build regional capacity.
  • Asia EDGE (Enhancing Development and Growth through Energy). To meet its goal of eliminating nuclear power and reducing the burning of coal by 2025, Taiwan will be looking to substantially increase its imports of LNG from the United States. Taiwan also hopes to play a role as a hub for wind power development in the region.
  • Infrastructure. Taiwan has numerous upcoming projects that could be of interest to U.S. engineering companies, including airport expansion, a new LNG receiving terminal, and mass transit lines.

When the Chamber’s 2018 Doorknock delegation was in Washington, D.C. in June, it frequently heard U.S. officials express their desire to find new and creative ways to bolster the U.S. economic relationship with Taiwan, since many of the traditional mechanisms have faced political and institutional obstacles.

The newly enunciated Indo-Pacific Economic Vision should provide just such an opportunity to achieve some breakthroughs. AmCham Taipei hopes that consultations between U.S. and Taiwan officials will now lead to well-defined programs for the two sides to pursue, ideally with plenty of room for private sector involvement.