The United States supports a free and open Indo-Pacific, said U.S Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Alex Wong.
“By ‘free’,” he said, “we mean, we want the nations of the Indo-Pacific to be free from coercion, that they can pursue in a sovereign manner the paths they choose in the region.” Secondly, the United States wants the societies of the various Indo-Pacific countries to become progressively more free in terms of good governance, fundamental rights, transparency, and anti-corruption.
By open, the U.S. first and foremost means open sea lines of communication and open airways. These open sea lines of communication are truly the lifeblood of the region with 50 percent of trade going through the waters of the Indo-Pacific, particularly through the South China Sea.
The United States continues to support free, fair, and reciprocal trade. Two-way trade every year with the Indo-Pacific region is $1.4 trillion. U.S. foreign direct investment in the region is $860 billion a year. And both those numbers are going up. “But when you talk about free, fair, and reciprocal trade,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Wong, “there are two parts to that. Number one, there is setting the rules of the road of free trade for trade agreements.”
But number two, the rules of free trade must be enforced. Nations must not be allowed to force technology transfer or steal intellectual property. If the rules aren’t enforced, over time, the free, fair, and reciprocal trading regime is weakened and that is to the detriment of not only the United States’ prosperity but the prosperity of the region and the world as a whole.
Building infrastructure will be critical to expanding economic growth in the Indo-Pacific region. Without the right bridges, roads, air and sea ports, it is almost impossible for any country, let alone an entire region, to achieve their full economic potential. The United States will work with like-minded partners to strengthen transparency and governance in infrastructure financing to ensure that these projects meet their needs and do not saddle them with unaffordable debt.
The United States looks forward to working with countries in the Indo-Pacific region that share its vision of a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific where sovereignty is upheld and a rules-based system respected.