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Is the US Ready to Expand Its Strategic Economic Footprint in Southeast Asia? – The Diplomat

pacific money | | Economy | | Southeast Asia

Vice President Kamala Harris indicated during a recent visit to the Philippines that the United States is ready to increase its economic engagement in strategic sectors.

US Vice President Kamala Harris visits a Philippine Coast Guard vessel off the coast of Palawan, Philippines, November 22, 2022.

credit: Twitter/Kamala Harris Vice President

US Vice President Kamala Harris landed in Manila last week economic and defense aidAlong with reaffirming defense ties, Harris announced a series of economic agreements covering energy, telecommunications and nickel mining. Amid rising geopolitical tensions with China, the visit could be a serious effort by the US to expand its strategic footprint in Southeast Asia by appealing to the economic interests of key regional allies. I sent a bigger message.

November was stormy summit moon The G-20 in Bali, the ASEAN Annual Meeting in Phnom Penh and the APEC Summit in Bangkok attract dignitaries and influential figures from around the world to the region. One of the most important messages emanating from the region, which was reinforced at the Summit, is that Southeast Asian nations should focus on their own economic challenges and development goals, rather than on geopolitical tensions between great powers. I wanted to match the As the economic dimension of the region expands, the question is not which side to take, but the question for the ASEAN nations as they battle global rivals like China and the United States.

Over the past few years, a strong argument could be made that China is quicker to answer in a draw. Through the Belt and Road Initiative and other channels, China has expanded its direct economic engagement with Southeast Asia at a faster pace than the United States, especially in strategic sectors such as telecommunications and transportation. Some examples of such engagements include the nearing completion of the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway in Indonesia. It is the first metro line recently opened in Hanoi.and Chinese investment activity Philippines When Telecom in Indonesia sector.

The initiative announced by Vice President Harris in Manila covers many of the same sectors, notably energy and telecommunications, so it can be interpreted as a US response to this Chinese activity.As Reported by RapperHarris indicated that the United States is “considering a partnership with NOW Telecom for the deployment of 5G technology in the Philippines,” and that the U.S. Department of Energy is partnering with the Philippines to develop new forms of energy, including renewable energy. It plans to develop energy production. There was even mention of civil nuclear cooperation.

But perhaps the most interesting development of Harris’ visit was the announcement that the United States would invest in the Philippines’ downstream nickel and cobalt processing industry. Nickel is a critical raw material in the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries, and demand is expected to rise in the coming years as the global clean energy transition gains momentum.

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Indonesia, which has the world’s largest raw nickel deposits, has used a ban on unprocessed ore exports to increase investment in its downstream industries. This has generally worked well, resulting in significant investment (particularly from China) in industrial parks in Sulawesi. This could be a very important link in his chain of clean energy supplies for the next generation.

Which country is the second largest supplier of nickel ore in the world? The Philippines. The US plan to invest in the downstream nickel industry in the Philippines suggests that the country has realized the importance of nickel in clean energy supply chains and the strategic need to make nickel accessible to US companies.

For now, the initiative Harris announced last week is just laying the groundwork. They signal to the Philippines that the US is ready to step up its economic engagement in strategic sectors such as energy, telecoms and nickel. We will have to wait and see to what extent these initiatives are actually realized. It is also unclear whether this approach could extend beyond the Philippines, which already has a uniquely deep relationship with the United States.

But just sending a message is important. Because the United States is no longer content to sit back and hope for a rules-based global system of free trade and the normative appeal of American values ​​to do the heavy lifting in the region. because it is sexual. Instead, the administration is aggressively targeting strategic sectors and laying out concrete plans for what it can offer potential partners and allies.

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