U.S. economic engagement in Indo-Pacific 'isn't about China,' Commerce Secretary Raimondo says

U.S. Commerce Secretary: Indo-Pacific is 'more secure' with U.S. presence

America’s economic engagement in Indo-Pacific “isn’t about China” but for strengthening U.S. presence in the region, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told CNBC.  

President Joe Biden launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, involving14 countries, about two years ago, for economic and trade cooperation among the member states. The IPEF was also seen as a means to counteract China in the region.

Raimondo said the Indo-Pacific is more secure and stable when the U.S. has a strong “active” presence in the region, adding that the framework is more about solidifying ties in the region.

“China is doing what China is doing. They’re investing here and that is their approach,” Raimondo, who was in Singapore to participate in the IPEF ministerial meeting, told CNBC’s Eunice Yoon.

“But we are here. This isn’t about China. This is about the United States showing up in the region.”

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IPEF member countries signed a “clean economy” agreement and announced $23 billion of investment opportunities on Thursday, to accelerate sustainable infrastructure projects in the region, according to a Commerce Department statement.  

During her trip, Raimondo also participated in bilateral meetings with partner countries to address several issues, including climate objectives.

“Singapore has long been an advocate for the U.S. to actively engage the region, especially Southeast Asia, and we have also consistently acted on this conviction,” said Singapore’s Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, following his meeting with the U.S. Commerce Secretary.

Raimondo underscored the U.S doesn’t stop countries in the region from deepening their own economic ties with China.

“We’re not here to tell any of these countries what to do,” she said. “They all do trade with China, they all trade in EVs with China …  that’s fine.”

She added the U.S. was also “massively ramping” up its economic support in the region by providing technology, technical assistance and capital.  

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At the recent G7 meeting, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned China over its state-driven industrial policies.

China’s industrial overcapacity — or excess production of goods that undercuts global competitors on price — has increasingly led to global concerns. Other countries claimed such production was often heavily subsidized.

China’s commerce minister during a trip to Europe rejected the “overcapacity” accusations as “groundless.”

Raimondo said when China dumps its subsidized products into the market, “It destroys the whole global price for whatever that product is,” adding that makes “us all less secure.”

While every country has to make their own decisions, “If we act together, that I think is the way to send a message to China.”

— CNBC’s Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report

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