Vice President Pence and Peter O'Neill walking across red carpet (© Mark Schiefelbein/AP Images)
Vice President Pence, left, and Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill in Papua New Guinea. The United States is the world's largest investor in the Indo-Pacific region. (© Mark Schiefelbein/AP Images)

“The United States’ commitment to the Indo-Pacific has never been stronger,” Vice President Pence said November 17, laying out several initiatives that illustrate why the U.S. is the best strategic and economic partner for the region.

The total U.S. investment in the Indo-Pacific is now more than $1.4 trillion — more than China’s, Japan’s and South Korea’s combined, Pence told the 2018 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

“And American investment in the Indo-Pacific will only continue to rise,” he told the gathering of government and business leaders.

Just over the past two years, American businesses have announced more than 1,500 new projects and more than $61 billion in new investments across this region, he said.

Clear contrast

The vice president praised “free, fair and reciprocal trade,” and cautioned that the United States has “stood up to countries that use unfair trade practices.” He urged other Indo-Pacific nations to follow suit.

Two men viewing welcoming ceremony (© Yong Teck Lim/Reuters)
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) with Vice President Pence in Singapore. The U.S. and Singapore signed an agreement to develop advanced smart-city technology. (© Yong Teck Lim/Reuters)

“We’re all aware some are offering infrastructure loans to governments across the Indo-Pacific and the wider world. Yet the terms of those loans are often opaque at best,” he said. “Too often, they come with strings attached and lead to staggering debt.”

“Know that the United States offers a better option.”

The vice president emphasized that American investment is never predatory, but instead is focused on building up both parties and maintaining the highest standards.

“We don’t drown our partners in a sea of debt. We don’t coerce or compromise your independence,” Pence assured the APEC Summit audience.

“American companies are hiring and training your workers, holding themselves to the highest standards,” he said. “They don’t serve a distant capital; they bring benefits directly to your country.”

“The United States has extended a hand in a spirit of friendship and partnership, seeking collaboration, not control,” Pence said. “We do not offer a constricting belt or a one-way road.”

Among the U.S. initiatives and new agreements that the vice president outlined:

  • A partnership between the United States, Australia and Japan for energy, infrastructure and communications investment.
  • ExxonMobil, one of the largest private investors in Papua New Guinea, making a new multibillion-dollar investment.
  • The U.S.-ASEAN Smart Cities Partnership to “strengthen the cyber economy of Southeast Asia and bring American business expertise” to the region.
  • A partnership with Papua New Guinea and Australia on their joint initiative at Lombrum Naval Base on Manus Island.

“When you partner with us, we partner with you, and we all prosper,” Pence said.