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International relations

Singapore's Lee to meet with Biden at White House on Tuesday

Southeast Asian hub keen to hear more on planned Indo-Pacific Economic Framework

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hold a joint news conference in Singapore in August 2021.   © Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- U.S. President Joe Biden will welcome Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore to the White House on Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

During the visit, Biden will review efforts to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific and discuss the war in Ukraine, the statement said.

It said Biden looked forward to deepening cooperation on issues including upholding freedom of the seas, supply chain resiliency, the crisis in Myanmar, and fighting climate change.

Lee's office said his working visit to the United States from Saturday to the following Saturday, April 2, would build on a "robust, longstanding and multi-faceted relationship."

In Washington, he will meet senior members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate and speak at the Council on Foreign Relations.

He will also travel to New York to meet U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and industry and financial sector leaders.

Biden had been due to host leaders of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Singapore is a part, next week, but the summit was postponed because not all leaders could attend on the March 28 and 29 dates announced by the White House.

The White House said last week it is discussing new dates for that summit.

Singapore is a key financial and trading center and has been keen to hear details of U.S. plans for an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) in a region Washington says remains a key priority despite the Ukraine crisis.

The Biden administration announced an Indo-Pacific strategy in February in which it vowed to commit more diplomatic and security resources to the region to counter what it sees as China's bid to create a regional sphere of influence.

The document reiterated plans to launch IPEF early this year, but few details have emerged, and the administration has been reluctant to offer the increased market access Asian countries desire, seeing this as threatening American jobs.

Analysts say then-President Donald Trump's withdrawal from a trade framework now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership undercuts U.S. engagement with the Indo-Pacific, where many countries count China as their main trading partner.

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