Jul 29, 2018

Scoop: Pompeo's Asia speech

Photo: Carlos Tischler/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will lay down an important marker for China in a speech on Monday at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Indo-Pacific Business Forum. Pompeo won't say this explicitly, but he'll subtly tell China's neighbors they don't have to choose Chinese investment over American investment.

The big picture: Axios has been briefed on the speech from a source with direct knowledge of its latest contents, as of early Sunday evening. Pompeo is expected to frame the speech as a discussion of the Trump administration’s "economic strategy for advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific."

The key line: "I am here to say emphatically that the Trump administration is expanding our economic engagement in the Indo-Pacific." (The Trump officials are expected to announce new initiatives to promote U.S. private sector investments in Asia, especially in energy, infrastructure and the digital economy, the source told me.)

  • Expect Pompeo to say that "America will be there and American businesses will be there. The American people and the whole world have a stake in Indo-Pacific peace and prosperity. That is why the Indo-Pacific must be free and open."

Between the lines: Pompeo has a tough job selling the Trump administration's economic engagement in Asia. One of Trump's first acts as president was withdrawing the U.S. from the region's biggest trade deal — the Trans-Pacific Partnership. 

  • Many smaller Asian nations worry about an American retreat from the region and have begun to see an emboldened China fill the vacuum. 
  • A similar dynamic is occurring in Europe. But most countries around the world would still, if given the choice, far prefer to deal with America over China.

China has been operating like a pay-day lender as it aggressively expands and lays down major investments around the world. 

  • Pompeo's speech will highlight the U.S. business advantages of reliability and transparency: "Thanks to [our] history of economic and commercial engagement, America’s relationships throughout the Indo-Pacific today are characterized by mutual trust and respect. American friendship is welcomed, and American businesses are recognized for their ingenuity, reliability, and honesty."

Behind the scenes: About a half-dozen Cabinet secretaries and agency heads, including Wilbur Ross and Rick Perry, will lay out the administration’s economic and commercial strategy for the Indo-Pacific, the source said.  

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