Sunday, 5 August 2018

‘Indo-Pacific’ pitch gets lukewarm reception in SE Asia

US envoy Mike Pompeo failed to make a meaningful economic counter to China's rich initiatives during a highly anticipated five-day tour of the strategic region

Days after announcing a big new investment pitch for Southeast Asia, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began a five-day trip with visits to Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia to ramp up regional support for America’s new “Indo-Pacific” strategy aimed at counterbalancing China.

The trip came amid mounting trade tensions between the US and China as both powers compete for regional influence. Most of Southeast Asia’s trade-reliant economies are skeptical of the Donald Trump administration’s trade policies, fearing a sustained trade war between the world’s two biggest economies will negatively impact on regional growth.

Though Southeast Asian nations are cool to Trump’s lurch towards protectionism, the alternative of China’s economic dominance also stirs unease. US officials say they do not intend to compete directly with Beijing’s initiatives, including the US$1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative, but Pompeo’s remarks clearly framed the strategy as a counter to China.

“Like so many of our Asian allies and friends, our country fought for its own independence from an empire that expected deference,” Pompeo told the US Chamber of Commerce during a policy speech last week in an apparent reference to China. “We thus have never and will never seek domination in the Indo-Pacific, and we will oppose any country that does.”

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at