The United States’ broad engagement with the Asia-Pacific region will continue as before, the recent change in U.S. leadership notwithstanding, said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy during a recent teleconference with journalists.
Already, both Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have visited our friends and allies in the Asia-Pacific region. Secretary of Defense James Mattis will attend Asia's premier security summit, the Shangri-La Forum, an inter-governmental meeting of ministers and delegates from over 50 countries to be held in June. And in November, President Donald Trump will attend the U.S.- Association of South East Asia Nations, or ASEAN summit and the East Asia summit, both to be held in the Philippines, and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, Leaders’ Meeting in Vietnam.
Indeed, economic relations between the United States and our partners in the Asia-Pacific are among the most important issues up for discussion, said Assistant Secretary Murphy.
“Trade is very important to the United States, particularly with this region. The ASEAN collective represents in its unity a massive trading partner and is the source of a lot of U.S. investment there… We want to expand the trade, and we want to do so in a way that’s both free but also fair,” he said.
“Our withdrawal from [the Trans-Pacific Partnership] does not change our commitment to the region writ large and a rules-based economic order. I think what we are talking about with the countries is how to proceed in a way that’s beneficial to ensure fair trade so that the United States has equal access to the markets in the region as they have access to our market.”
Equally important is the related issue of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, said Assistant Secretary Murphy.
“We believe that the South China Sea should be the scene of unimpeded commerce and travel. And many countries, the entire international community for that matter, relies a great deal on unimpeded travel and commerce through this region. And we believe, as a Pacific nation, that we have a role to play in this regard.”