Rise of China 'won't reduce US relevance'

Rise of China 'won't reduce US relevance'
Mr Kirk Wagar, the US Ambassador to Singapore.

The rise of China will not diminish the importance and relevance of the United States in the Asia Pacific, given the trajectory of US diplomatic, military and economic engagements here, said Washington's envoy to Singapore.

"America has been, is and will be an enduring fixture in the region," said Mr Kirk Wagar during his public lecture at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy yesterday. His remarks further affirm President Barack Obama's message that the US remains committed to its rebalance towards the region.

In a reference to China's aggressive stance in its maritime disputes with the Philippines and Vietnam, Mr Wagar also gave the assurance that the US makes no territorial claims and does not seek to benefit from the region's natural resources. Instead, he said the US is an "interested and willing partner" in the drive for success in South-east Asia.

"Despite the repeated rhetoric about US losing ground in ASEAN, you might be surprised to know that today, US FDI (foreign direct investment) throughout South-east Asia is more than that of China, Japan and South Korea combined," he said.

Official data shows that as of 2012, the US has invested a cumulative US$189 billion (S$237 billion) in ASEAN, including US$138 billion in Singapore, the latter being the highest in Asia. The total FDI from China, Japan and South Korea is US$179.3 billion.

He stressed the mutual benefit of economic ties between the US and ASEAN, saying: "In today's global economy, what's good for America is good for South-east Asia and vice-versa." He cited as examples the economic gains of the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership involving 12 nations that is being negotiated.

He pointed out that American firms in Singapore are a "force multiplier for our rebalance to Asia". The US, he said, wants to "foster the kind of open economic engagement that has brought development and prosperity to Singapore".

Asked what ASEAN countries can do to open up the playing field, Mr Wagar was quick to point out that strong protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) can be a catalyst, as no company will want to invest in a country where their patents and trademarks are not secure. The US has often pushed for greater protection of IPR in the region.


This article was first published on June 06, 2014.
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