During her foreign policy address in Singapore in August, Vice President Kamala Harris said, “The United States is a proud part of the Indo-Pacific. And this region is critically important to our nation’s security and prosperity.”
The Vice President pointed out that the Indo- Pacific is home to some of the closest allies and partners of the United States. U.S. exports to the region support 4 million American jobs. In 2019, the U.S. conducted nearly $2 trillion in two-way trade.
She noted that the livelihood of millions of people depends on the billions of dollars in trade that flow through the South China Sea lanes each day. Part of the U.S. vision for the region includes freedom of navigation, “which is vital to us all,” Vice President Harris said.
In addition to freedom of the seas and unimpeded commerce, the U.S. vision for the region has other essential components, the Vice President noted: “peace and stability…advancing human rights, a commitment to the international rules-based order, and the recognition that our common interests are not zero-sum.”
The United States stands with our allies and partners in the face of threats to this vision, including in the South China Sea. “Beijing continues to coerce, to intimidate and to make claims to the vast majority of the South China Sea,” Vice President Harris said. “Beijing’s actions continue to undermine the rules-based order and threaten the sovereignty of nations.”
The Vice-President made clear U.S. engagement in Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific “is not against any one country, nor is it designed to make anyone choose between countries. Instead, our engagement is about advancing an optimistic vision that we have for our participation and partnership in this region.”
Toward that end, the U.S. is committed to fortifying its key regional partnerships, both bilaterally and multi-laterally, through ASEAN, the Quad, and the Mekong-U.S. Partnership. Vice President Harris announced the United States is offering to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, or APEC, in 2023. She emphasized the need for working together on issues like climate change and global health. She also asked that countries in the region join the United States in working to return Burma to the path of democracy.
“Years from now,” said Vice President Harris, “I hope we can all look back on this moment and say this was when our region joined together to realize a better future; when we took action to improve the lives of all people.”