US to set ‘common goals’ on Indo-Pacific economic cooperation in early 2022

Michael Martina and David Brunnstrom, Reuters

Posted at Jan 20 2022 07:06 AM

Shipping containers are seen at the Port of Long Beach on January 11, 2022 in Long Beach, Calif. Patrick T. Fallon, AFP
Shipping containers are seen at the Port of Long Beach on January 11, 2022 in Long Beach, Calif. Patrick T. Fallon, AFP

WASHINGTON—A senior US policy official for China said on Wednesday that Washington aims to establish "common goals" on economic cooperation with Indo-Pacific countries in early 2022, as Washington seeks to counter Beijing's influence in the region.

US President Joe Biden told Asian leaders in October that Washington would launch talks on creating an Indo-Pacific economic framework. But few details have emerged and the administration has avoided moves towards rejoining trade deals critics say threaten US jobs.

White House senior director for China Laura Rosenberger told a webinar that discussions with partners in recent months had helped "crystallize" the administration's thinking on how to pursue such a framework.

"Our initial ideas on proposed areas of economic cooperation include trade facilitation, digital economy standards, supply-chain resiliency, infrastructure, decarbonization and clean energy, export controls, tax and anti-corruption," Rosenberger told the National Bureau of Asian Research think-tank event.

"And we will continue to focus on establishing common goals and end states that we would jointly announce in the coming months, early period of 2022," she said without giving details.

Conversations on different pieces of the framework "will move at different speeds," she said.

Rosenberger said she had nothing new to say on the administration's view of a regional trade framework now known as CPTPP that the Trump administration quit in 2017. But she stressed the importance both of promoting a free and open region and protecting American workers who critics argue would be threatened by US participation in the pact.

US officials "all feel a sense of general urgency" to put the United States in the best position to be able to compete, she said.

US-China relations have sunk to their lowest point in decades as Biden has sought to leverage ties with allies and partners to counter what Washington sees as Beijing's increasing economic and military coercion.

The White House has touted its so-called AUKUS pact, under which the United States and Britain have agreed to help Australia acquire nuclear submarines — as well as leader-level summits between the United States, Australia, India and Japan — as evidence that US partnerships are causing China "heartburn." 

But some Indo-Pacific countries, many of which count China as their top trading partner, have lamented what they see as lacking US economic engagement. (Reporting by Michael Martina, David Brunnstrom and Rami Ayyub; Editing by Chris Reese and Cynthia Osterman)

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