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2020 Indo-Pacific Business Forum Promotes Free and Open Indo-Pacific

The third annual Indo-Pacific Business Forum took place online and in Hanoi, Vietnam on October 28-29, 2020.

2020 Indo-Pacific Business Forum Promotes Free and Open Indo-Pacific
Secretary Michael Pompeo visit in Vietnam. Image Source- Secretary Pompeo/Twitter

Oct 31, Washington, Media: It showcased high-impact private-sector investment and government efforts to support market competition, job growth, and high-standard economic development for greater prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.

The Forum promoted the United States’ vision of the Indo-Pacific as a free and open region composed of nations that are independent, strong, and prosperous. Over 2,600 business and government leaders from the United States and across the Indo-Pacific region participated.

Utilizing an innovative combination of a virtual conference platform and limited in-person events in Hanoi to mitigate the health risks associated with travel and large assemblies, the 2020 Forum enabled safe and productive commercial and diplomatic engagement despite the pandemic.

Panel discussions highlighted key themes including:

* Energy and Infrastructure

* The Digital Economy

* Market Connectivity

* Health and Economic Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic

* U.S.-Indo-Pacific Partnerships and Commercial Opportunities

* Women’s Economic Empowerment.

The U.S. officials and business executives highlighted a range of commercial deals and new initiatives, including:

New U.S. Deals in Indo-Pacific

* Since the first Indo-Pacific Business Forum in July 2018, the U.S. Department of Commerce, in partnership with other U.S. government agencies, has facilitated $37.6 billion in FDI from the region into the United States supporting an estimated 50,000 American jobs, and assisted 4,122 Indo-Pacific clients considering investments in the United States.  During the same period, the U.S. Department of Commerce assisted over 12,000 U.S. companies active in the region and supported an estimated 1 million American jobs.

* The United States, Australia, Japan, and Palau announced on October 28 that they are moving forward with the financing for the construction of an undersea fiber optic cable to the Republic of Palau which will ensure reliable, secure digital connectivity in Palau. The project, valued at approximately $30 million, will connect to a new undersea cable financed by the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation. That cable will be the world’s longest, spanning from Singapore to the United States. This marks the first project delivered under the Trilateral Partnership for Infrastructure Investment in the Indo-Pacific between the United States, Australia, and Japan. U.S. Government financial support for the cable connection project comes from U.S. Department of the Interior Compact Funding, USAID, and the U.S. government’s Transaction Advisory Fund.

* U.S. firm AES Corporation and PetroVietnam Gas aim to go forward with the proposed $2.8 billion Son My LNG import terminal and power plant. The agreement will open the door to billions of dollars of annual U.S. LNG exports to Vietnam.

* India has received $20 billion of foreign investment this year from U.S. companies including Google and Amazon. In July, Google pledged to commit $10 billion in India to accelerate the adoption of digital services in the key overseas market.  In January, Amazon announced a $1 billion investment in digitizing small and medium businesses, allowing them to sell and operate online.

* USTDA announced its growing commitment to smart cities in India by funding a feasibility study in support of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs’ National Urban Innovation Stack – a cutting-edge smart city tool to drive innovation, data-driven governance and capacity building across more than 100 Indian smart cities.

* USTDA also announced grant funding for technical assistance to fundamentally transform the way Ho Chi Minh City manages its daily operations through advanced data analytics.

USAID in Vietnam announced the launch of the Vietnam Low Emission Energy Program II (V-LEEP II). This five-year, $36 million programs will accelerate Vietnam’s transition to a clean, secure, and market-driven energy system.

* Mastercard established Mastercard Academy 2.0, a flagship program that will provide essential digital knowledge and skills to 100,000 Indonesians by 2023 – including schoolchildren, young adults, entrepreneurs and mid-career professionals – to help them thrive and actively participate in Indonesia’s digital transformation.

* The U.S. Department of the Treasury and Thailand Ministry of Finance highlighted the Framework to Strengthen Infrastructure Finance and Market Building Cooperation. This cooperative initiative is designed to support infrastructure development through market-oriented, private sector investment.

New U.S. and Partner Efforts to Advance a Free and Open Indo-Pacific

* In September 2020, the United States, the five Mekong countries – Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam – and the ASEAN Secretariat launched the Mekong-U.S. Partnership to expand and deepen our relationship and promote the stability, peace, prosperity, and sustainable development of the Mekong sub-region. The Partnership builds on 11 years of collaboration under the Lower Mekong Initiative to strengthen cooperation and programming, including in the areas of economic connectivity, human capital development, transboundary water and natural resources management, and non-traditional security.

* Since Asia EDGE’s launch in July 2018, the U.S. government has reported success stories for U.S. energy firms in the Indo-Pacific totalling approximately $29.5 billion, which have supported more than 142,000 U.S. jobs. Asia EDGE represents an initiative of a group of 10 USG agencies that are advocating for approximately $185 billion in energy deals and advancing additional energy projects in the Indo-Pacific region totalling approximately $57 billion. Asia EDGE has allocated $140 million for technical assistance programming in Indo-Pacific markets to improve those markets’ regulatory environments and procurement processes, develop national and regional energy markets, deploy private capital, and modernize their energy infrastructure.

* The Infrastructure Transaction and Assistance Network (ITAN) includes representatives from 14 U.S. government agencies. ITAN supported dozens of projects with a market value of over $175 billion and potential export content upwards of $23 billion during the initiative’s first year in operation. U.S. government agencies directed $587 million in tools and resources to support priority transactions and capacity building efforts in partner countries. ITAN projects span the Indo-Pacific, with several projects in Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand.

* The Blue Dot Network, announced at the 2019 Indo-Pacific Business Forum, will help close the gap in the development of quality infrastructure by certifying and advancing projects that uphold international principles and standards. With partners Japan and Australia, the United States is developing this initiative to promote infrastructure investment that is open and inclusive, transparent, economically viable, and financially, environmentally and socially sustainable.

* The Digital Connectivity and Cybersecurity Partnership (DCCP), a whole-of-U.S. government initiative with 10 agencies, promotes expanded connectivity and an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable internet. In the past year, the DCCP has supported 15 countries in the Indo-Pacific region with approximately $50 million for capacity building to improve digital connectivity, strengthen the private sector’s digital capacity, assist in the design, development, and implementation of information and communications technology policies and regulations.

* The U.S.-ASEAN Smart Cities Partnership is launching new programs on Health in Cities, resource recovery and reuse, and sustainable transportation policies and practices. The Partnership to date has invested in over 20 projects to support the ASEAN Smart Cities Network.  Coordination with the private sector is an integral part of the Partnership.

* The United States and the Republic of Fiji signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) on October 15 that will create a platform on which to expand and deepen bilateral trade and investment ties between the two countries.

* The United States and Bangladesh signed an Open Skies agreement on September 30 to establish a modern, market-driven civil aviation relationship consistent with U.S. Open Skies international aviation policy. It includes unrestricted capacity and frequency of services, open route rights, a liberal charter regime, and open code-sharing opportunities.

* Cambodia has passed a new law which recognizes U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) as providing sufficient quality and safety assurances, enabling new vehicles that adhere to these standards to be imported and sold in Cambodia. With the passage of this law, Cambodia becomes the first country in ASEAN to explicitly recognize and accept U.S. FMVSS.

* The inaugural United States-Thailand Energy Policy Dialogue on October 27 brought together high-level officials from the U.S. and Thai governments to chart a path forward for collaboration on energy-related issues. Participants discussed opportunities in the oil, gas, and power sectors, including those related to renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as opportunities for mobilizing commercial investment.

* A new collaboration between the U.S. EXIM Bank and the USA Healthcare Alliance will provide greater access to high-quality U.S. healthcare goods and services throughout the Indo-Pacific region, which can aid in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

* Over the last year, the Department of the Treasury has initiated seven Indo-Pacific bilateral framework agreements with Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam designed to catalyze private sector financing throughout the region. The inaugural meetings of the U.S.-Indonesia and U.S.-Taiwan working groups were held on October 5 and October 27, respectively, and drew more than 100 officials to discuss quality infrastructure investment across the region.

* USTDA announced new funding to support the Southeast Asia Aviation Cooperation Program (SEA ACP) a public-private partnership combining the expertise of five U.S. government agencies and more than 30 U.S. companies to support technical, policy, and commercial cooperation in civil aviation in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. USTDA will support a series of reverse trade missions to the United States that will familiarize the region’s aviation leaders with U.S. policies, technologies, and best practices to promote safety and security, enhance aviation and airport operations, and foster new partnerships with U.S. industry.

* The FAA and USTDA will co-host an inaugural SEA ACP event – an Airport Safety Webinar taking place November 17-18, 2020.  The workshop will bring together U.S. companies and Southeast Asian leaders to discuss current approaches and practices in both the region and the United States on airport safety during construction and aircraft rescue and firefighting operations.  USTDA will also partner with the FAA to train Vietnamese airport operators and aviation representatives on the latest technical, operational and managerial tools that will enhance airport operations across Vietnam.

* The FAA also announced a virtual Performance-Based Communications and Surveillance (PBCS) Workshop under the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), for APEC economies in February 2021 to enhance awareness of PBCS as well as share best practices for its implementation.

* In collaboration with the U.S.-India Aviation Cooperation Program, USTDA will fund an innovative executive development training program for India’s next generation of aviation leaders.

* The United States and Japan reaffirmed their shared commitment to establishing a secure, open, and competitive energy market and strengthening energy security in the Indo-Pacific region through the Japan-U.S. Strategic Energy Partnership (JUSEP). With a greater focus on joint commercial engagement, JUSEP is making concrete progress in facilitating and creating new business opportunities for joint U.S. and Japanese energy projects in the Indo-Pacific region, including in Hai Phong, Vietnam.  The two countries are also strengthening their tools for commercial engagement, including through a new Memorandum of Cooperation to strengthen energy and infrastructure finance and market building cooperation, which was signed in February 2020 between the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and Ministry of Finance (MOF).

* USAID announced an MOU with a consortium of U.S. retail, apparel, and footwear companies and industry associations to help supply chain workers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam, hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The participating companies and industry associations are Carter’s Inc., Gap Inc., Global Brands Group, Levi Strauss & Co., Nike, Tapestry, Target, VF Corporation, Walmart, American Apparel and Footwear Association, National Retail Federation, Retail Industry Leaders Association, and the U.S. Fashion Industry Association.

* USAID announced new activities that will improve access to affordable, secure, reliable, and sustainable energy through the advancement of expanded, transparent, and efficient regional energy markets, in collaboration with various public and private sector partners from throughout the region and the United States, including U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories and the United States Energy Association.

An All-of-America Commitment to a Free and Open Indo-Pacific

As all nations strive to recover from the unprecedented disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of economic cooperation and partnership is paramount. As the world’s largest economy and most generous humanitarian assistance donor, the United States is leading the way in that recovery effort, both at home and abroad.

The 2020 Indo-Pacific Business Forum enabled business executives and government leaders to forge connections, learn about industry, regulatory, and policy trends, and explore new opportunities for contributing to regional and global economic recovery.

Three U.S. Cabinet officials spoke at the 2020 Indo-Pacific Business Forum:

  • Secretary of State Michael Pompeo

  • Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross

  • Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette

Fifteen U.S. Ambassadors and Chiefs of Mission from across the Indo-Pacific region participated, along with Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) Chairman Kimberly Reed and senior State Department officials including Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Energy Resources Frank Fannon, and Ambassador-At-Large for Global Women’s Issues Kelley E. Currie.

Other U.S. government agencies were represented by senior officials including:

  • U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) Chief Operating Officer and Head of Agency Todd Abrajano

  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Steve Dickson

  • Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan

  • U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick

  • Department of the Treasury Assistant Secretary for International Markets Mitchell Silk

  • Department of Commerce Deputy Under Secretary Joe Semsar

Distinguished speakers from the private sector included executives from:

  • Google

  • Ford Motors

  • AT&T

  • AES

  • Mastercard

  • VISA

  • Citi

  • GE

  • Honeywell

  • Jacobs Engineering

  • Excelerate Energy

  • Medtronic

  • Cheniere

  • Keysight Technologies

  • Sanford Health

  • The U.S. Grains Council

  • The Aerospace Industries Association

The Forum was sponsored by USTDA and co-hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the US-ASEAN Business Council, and the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI).

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