Washington: The Trump administration is all set to roll out its major policy initiatives to address the massive infrastructural and energy needs of the Indo-Pacific region where India is seen as one of the anchor countries for greater connectivity and trade.
President Donald Trump has lined up his top Cabinet members Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Energy Secretary Rick Perry — at US Chambers of Commerce which is hosting the first Indo-Pacific Business Forum meeting tomorrow.
The Forum will introduce the economic and commercial elements of the US’ whole-of-government Indo-Pacific strategy and will include participation from senior administration officials, private sector and officials representing Indo-Pacific nations.
The move comes nine months after the Trump administration openly spoke against the “predatory economic policies of an Asian giant” that threatens to eat into sovereignty of countries in Indo-Pacific, which has now emerged as a critical engine for growth.
Asian economies are now projected to create 50 per cent of global GDP in coming decades.
To realise that potential, countries of the Indo-Pacific will need to attract nearly USD 26 trillion in capital from the private sector and not the government to fund their energy and infrastructure needs, Nisha Desai Biswal, president of the US India Business Council (USIBC) said.
She said American companies will be a critical player in both investing the capital and building the technology and infrastructure that the region requires.
“It’s an event that brings together business, private sector and many of our partners from the region to kind of have a conversation about how we boost engagement investment across the Indo Pacific, Biswal, a key player in this initiative, told PTI ahead of the first Forum.
In addition to Pompeo, Ross and Perry envisioning the administration’s policies for the Indo-Pacific region, other top administration officials include USAID Administrator Mark Green, OPIC President Ray Washburne, Acting Ex-Im Bank Chairman Jeffrey Gerrish, and US Chamber President and CEO Thomas J Donohue.
“All would be making announcements or sharing key investment opportunities that they are advancing in the Indo-Pacific region, Desai said.
The Indian Ambassador to the US, Navtej Singh Sarna, is among the few diplomats from the region who have been invited to speak during the forum event.
Senator Mark Warner, co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, would provide Congressional perspective on how it’s important for the US public and private sector to be engaged in the Indo-Pacific region.
What we hope that there will be a lot of outcomes that come from this Indo Pacific Business Forum, said Biswal, who served as the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia in the second term of the Obama administration.
The forum will highlight US Government initiatives to advance economic engagement in the region, particularly on key sectors including energy and infrastructure and the digital economy, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said.
The forum will also emphasise the importance of public-private partnerships, the benefits of transparency and good governance, and unlocking the power of markets for sustainable development, and the need for US collaboration with regional partners, she said.
Immediately after the event, Pompeo would leave for Singapore to attend the ASEAN ministerial.
He will have an opportunity to engage with his counterparts in the region and be able to take the business strategy and the economic strategy for the Indo-Pacific that has been articulated in this event and be able to engage with his counterparts from the region to further have conversations and discuss next steps, Biswal said.
Responding to a question, the former State Department official asserted that the USD 26 trillion infrastructure gap across the Indo-Pacific region would come from the private sector and not from the government.
It’s largely going to be how we leverage private investment into the region to build the infrastructure and the connectivity, whether it’s the energy infrastructure or the transport infrastructure, or the digital infrastructure where India is such a leader for the region, Biswal said.
India is a critically important player in the entire scheme of things, she argued, noting that over the years it has emerged as a much more consequential actor in South east Asia.
We really do see that India is one of the anchor countries in how we bring this whole region into greater connectivity and really boost a boost commerce and trade across the region, she said.
We also know that in many areas, including in the digital economy, India is a leader and a pioneer that has a lot of knowledge to share. We know that India is a very important market for the countries of Asia and we want to support that greater collaboration in the region, she said.
The US has a strong interest in also supporting all of the trading connectivity and being part of it, she said adding that American business, technology and capital has an important role to play.
So, the Chamber is a hosting this gathering as an effort to really bring together a lot of these different actors and different perspective and create some opportunities for that connections to be made, she said.
Biswal refuted the notion that the forum is intended against China. I don’t think that this is intended to be in any way a message to any particular country. This is meant to be an articulation of a robust policy and engagement from the US, from the government and from the business community and desire to do so in a way that is collaborative and consultative with our partners and counterparts across the region, she said.