Analysts: US will prioritize economic and security cooperation with Southeast Asia

Analysts: US will prioritize economic and security cooperation with Southeast Asia

US Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to arrive in Singapore on August 22 to begin an official visit to Southeast Asia, and then Ms. Kamala Harris will travel to Vietnam, according to CNBC.

US Vice President Kamala Harris. Photo: AFP

In a priority to strengthen America’s position in Asia, the administration of President Joe Biden has strengthened ties with Southeast Asian countries as an important part of Washington’s goal to counter economic and political influence. China’s growing dominance in the region.

Southeast Asia has a population of more than 660 million people, and some economies in this region are growing at a rapid rate. The strategic importance of Southeast Asia is tied to its strategic location near the South China Sea, which is an important trade route for trillions of dollars worth of global goods each year.

US Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Singapore for 3 days from August 22, in which is expected to hold talks with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on August 23 and give a speech on August 24 with the content emphasizing importance of partnerships and areas of cooperation to be promoted. The next stop of Ms. Kamala Harris is Vietnam.

Vice President Kamala Harris’s visit comes after a number of high-level US meetings with Southeast Asian leaders. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken previously attended ASEAN’s virtual meetings earlier this month, while US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited several Southeast Asian countries in July, including: Singapore, Vietnam South, and the Philippines.

Angela Mancini, Head of Asia-Pacific Markets at Control Risks, said that compared to the Trump administration, President Biden and his team were “thoughtful and predictable”. much more in the presence and involvement of the United States in Southeast Asia.

This female expert said that the US-China strategic competition is the “number one” bipartisan foreign policy issue in the US, and the Biden administration is aware that Southeast Asian countries will not want to choose between the US and the US. and China.

“The previous administration (the Trump administration) has been very clear about the fact that the US-China strategic competition is the number one important issue in this region. That sometimes puts countries in situations where they feel they have to choose sides,” commented Ms. Mancini.

Former President Donald Trump has been criticized for his absence from several key regional summits in Southeast Asia, prompting some political observers to question America’s commitment to the region. And this issue does not seem to be of interest to the US during President Trump’s term, along with China’s increasing influence in this region, through programs such as innovative infrastructure investment. “Belt and Road” concept.

Meanwhile, “the Biden administration is keen to make it clear that US involvement in Southeast Asia is much, much broader than one thing… that there are many other issues to be addressed, including Covid.” -19, and those issues are best addressed by partnership and active participation,” said Ms. Mancini.

In a statement last month, The White House said Vice President Harris will discuss with the leaders of Singapore and Vietnam on many issues, from regional security, the Covid-19 pandemic to climate change.

Two American priorities in Southeast Asia

According to Angela Mancini, bBy choosing Singapore and Vietnam for Vice President Harris’ first official trip to Southeast Asia, the United States shows that it prioritizes economic and security cooperation opportunities in this region.

The US has a defense partnership with Singapore and is the largest foreign direct investor in the island nation. Meanwhile, the US also has a growing trade relationship with Vietnam, which strongly opposes China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Economically, Ms. Mancini said that commercial cooperation should be the “most natural” way for the US to engage more deeply in Southeast Asia, but domestic US politics is a major obstacle to this issue. .

Trump in 2017 withdrew the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a large-scale trade pact with 11 other countries, including two Southeast Asian nations, Singapore and Singapore. Vietnam. The remaining countries then renegotiated the agreement and signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in March 2018.

Alex Feldman, Chairman and CEO of the US-ASEAN Business Council, said the US is unlikely to join the CPTPP in the short term. TPP has been widely criticized and has not been approved by the US Congress.

Commenting on CNBC last week, Mr. Feldman said that the US can reach agreements on the digital economy with countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

In this regard, Singapore is a country that is strongly developing digital platforms and has had digital economy agreements with a number of other countries such as Australia, Chile, and New Zealand.

A new digital trade agreement would likely focus on developing a digital economy based on digital trade rules and standards between participating countries, such as cross-border data storage and protection. personal data.

Chairman of the US-ASEAN Business Council said that a bilateral agreement between the US and Singapore is very meaningful, helping to set the rules for the digital economy roadmap, and open the door to an agreement. greater multilateralism in the future.

However, Ms. Deborah Elms, Executive Director of the Asian Trade Center Asian Trade Center, said, although there are many “reasonable reasons” to pursue and lead a new digital (economic) agreement. , but Washington may have trouble convincing other countries to join.

This expert explained in a report last week that such digital deals are not new and that the US will enter “a crowded field” of parties, because of large trade agreements such as the CPTPP. and RCEP has included digital initiatives.

Therefore, the United States will need a clear and convincing rationale to initiate another trade undertaking, and it will need to provide added value to potential members.