Vice President Kamala Harris will seek to reassure the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Bangkok, Thailand, that the United States is committed to the Indo-Pacific and that the region has no better partner than the U.S. after last week’s surprising midterm election results.
“The United States is a proud Pacific power, and we have a vital interest in promoting a region that is open, interconnected, prosperous, secure, and resilient,” Harris is expected to say at the APEC CEO Summit on Friday morning local time, according to her prepared remarks.
“Under our administration, the United States is more engaged with the Indo-Pacific than we have ever been. We have infused new energy and leadership into our unrivaled network of global alliances and partnerships,” she will add. “The United States is here to stay.”
Harris is representing the U.S. at the APEC summit after President Joe Biden’s appearances at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and East Asia meetings in Cambodia, as well as its Group of 20 leaders counterpart in Indonesia earlier this week. The president was abroad when he learned Democrats had retained control of the Senate and had held Republicans to a narrow majority in the House, what he and his aides described as a repudiation of former President Donald Trump’s foreign policy.
Harris started her Asia trip Friday morning local time by taking part in the APEC Leaders Retreat and is anticipated to end her first day with an audience with Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua and Queen Suthida Bajrasudhabimalalakshana at their Grand Palace. Her weeklong itinerary also includes a bilateral meeting with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha before she and second gentlemen Douglas Emhoff head to the Philippines. There, Harris will sit down with Filipino President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr. and Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio, among other engagements.
Biden has been criticized for skipping APEC, which coincides with his eldest granddaughter Naomi Biden’s wedding to Peter Neal at the White House on Saturday and his 80th birthday on Sunday. Foreign policy pundits have expressed concern Biden’s absence will cede the stage to Chinese President Xi Jinping at the gathering after concerted efforts by the U.S. and Western allies to counter China’s soft diplomacy outreach through economic programs such as its infrastructure Belt and Road initiative.
There is uncertainty in the Indo-Pacific regarding what the U.S. is offering economically after Trump reneged on the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2017, according to Center for Strategic and International Studies economics senior vice president Matthew Goodman.
“There is the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which I’ll, again, come back to but not a traditional trade arrangement that the U.S. is leading or participating in, and I think the president’s decision not to go to the APEC leaders meeting in Bangkok is also another reason for partners to be concerned,” Goodman told reporters during a pre-APEC briefing.
The U.S. is due to host APEC next year.