US aims to be ‘economic partner of choice’ for Indo-Pacific- Raimondo

By Thomson Reuters Mar 10, 2024 | 11:37 PM

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo is leading a presidential trade and investment mission to the Philippines starting Monday as the United States looks to fortify economic ties across the region.

Raimondo plans to tout the Philippines as a key hub for regional supply chains and investment in support of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy during the visit on Monday and Tuesday. She will then travel to Thailand for two days of meetings for a presidential export council mission.

“We want to deepen our economic engagement in the Indo-Pacific, which is dynamic – some of the fastest growing, dynamic economies of the world,” Raimondo said in an interview, saying the trip aims to ramp up “our economic and commercial ties in the Indo-Pacific.”

Security engagements between the Philippines and the United States have stepped up considerably under President Joe Biden and his counterpart Ferdinand Marcos Jr, with both leaders keen to counter what they see as China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea and near Taiwan.

Raimondo said she is often asked if the United States is asking countries in the Indo-Pacific to choose between China and the United States.

“Absolutely not – but we want the United States to be the economic partner of choice,” Raimondo said. “For that to happen, we have to show up and show up in the country with money, with collaboration and consistently show up.”

Raimondo made a trip in China in August where she met Chinese leaders and touted U.S. firms’ desire to do business in China.

The U.S. delegation to the Philippines includes executives from 22 companies including United Airlines, Alphabet’s Google, Black & Veatch, Visa , EchoStar/DISH, United Parcel Service (UPS), Boston Consulting Group, KKR Asia Pacific, Bechtel, FedEx, Mastercard and Microsoft, the White House said.

United said last week it would launch new flights from Tokyo-Narita to Cebu, Philippines starting July 31. Raimondo said she hopes there will be new U.S. investment announcements this week in the Philippines and that talks this week will lay the groundwork for future commercial investments.

Raimondo’s Thailand visit will focus on manufacturing, supply chain resiliency, artificial intelligence, and clean technology. In Bangkok, Raimondo will participate in a hybrid meeting of the U.S-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) Ministerial with IPEF partners following meetings in November.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)