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Economy

US, Japan and Australia team up on Indo-Pacific building push

Trilateral infrastructure framework aimed at countering China's Belt and Road

Australia's Foreign Ministry has announced a partnership with Japan and the U.S. to promote infrastructure investment in the Indo-Pacific and counter China's effort to gain influence in the region.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- The U.S., Japan and Australia will help countries in the Indo-Pacific region develop their infrastructure, according to an announcement from Australia's Foreign Ministry, in a move aimed at countering rapidly growing Chinese investment throughout Eurasia.

"The United States, Japan and Australia have formed a trilateral partnership to mobilize investment in projects that drive economic growth, create opportunities, and foster a free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific," said a statement released Tuesday by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The goal of the three countries is to ease bottlenecks in the world's fastest growing region, especially in areas such as energy, transportation and telecommunications, the statement said. 

According to the Asian Development Bank, developing countries in the region need $26 trillion in infrastructure investment by 2030 to fulfill their economic potential.

The initiative follows an announcement by the U.S. on Monday that it will commit $113 million in funding for infrastructure projects in the Indo-Pacific region. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the funding is part of an effort unveiled by President Donald Trump last year in Vietnam to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are trying to find a counterweight to China's Belt and Road Initiative, under which Chinese companies are building infrastructure in strategic locations and expanding China's economic influence across Eurasia.

Chinese infrastructure projects are often carried out with little regard for economic viability. Recipients of Chinese aid sometimes run into problems repaying the debts they incur and end up allowing Beijing to take control of the infrastructure.

The U.S., Japan and Australia hope to provide an alternative to the Chinese approach. "We share the belief that good investments stem from transparency, open competition, sustainability, adhering to robust global standards, employing the local workforce, and avoiding unsustainable debt burdens," the Australian Foreign Ministry statement said.

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