SYDNEY, Australia - US and Australian officials agreed in Singapore on Wednesday to further collaborate on the supply of rare earth materials that are critical in the production of clean energy technology such as electric vehicles.
The meeting between US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan comes as the United States seeks to reduce its reliance on China for rare earth elements, with Australia being the world's second-largest producer of the critical minerals after China.
Raimondo is in the region to lay the "groundwork" for negotiations on a new Indo-Pacific economic framework proposed by the United States, which left the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal in 2017 under President Joe Biden's predecessor Donald Trump.
At a four-way meeting held separately, Raimondo, Tehan and their counterparts from Singapore and New Zealand agreed to continue strengthening efforts to enhance supply chain resilience and promote infrastructure investment in the Indo-Pacific.
The four officials also discussed "opportunities to expand economic cooperation amongst like-minded partners in the Indo-Pacific region in an open and inclusive manner," according to the Australian government.
During their bilateral talks, Raimondo and Tehan stressed the importance of upholding "strong labor and environmental standards" in building resilient supply chains, Canberra said in a veiled reference to China, which is seen as having more relaxed labor and environmental regulations than Western countries.
At a regional summit in October, US President Joe Biden alluded to developing an "Indo-Pacific economic framework" that could be seen as an alternative to the 11-member TPP, formally known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Raimondo said Wednesday the United States is likely to launch a more formal process early next year to establish a "proper economic framework" for the region.