Pompeo hails 'return to democracy'
Rips China's 'decades of bad behaviour'
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo commended Thailand for "returning to the democratic fold", during his address on US Economic Engagement in the Indo-Pacific Region at the Siam Society in Bangkok yesterday.
He also touted Thailand's efforts to reduce poverty over the past decades, attributing it to economic cooperation with the United States in the region.
"The poverty rate here has declined from 67% back in 1986 to 7.8% in 2017," he said. "Thailand now has the 20th largest economy in the world."
Mr Pompeo urged Asean nations to uphold "trade and freedom" in their efforts to reduce poverty in the region as a whole.
"We want a free and open Indo-Pacific that's marked by the core tenants of the rule of law, of openness, of transparency, of good governance, of respect for sovereignty," he said.
Mr Pompeo also slammed China for "decades of bad behaviour", on the same day US President Donald Trump hit China with a 10% tariff on US$300 billion of goods -- the latest escalation in the US-China trade war.
"For decades, China has taken advantage of trade … and it's time for that to stop," Mr Pompeo said. "It cannot be the case that a nation uses protectionism to protect its own goods and uses predatory tactics to deny others' economies the chances to grow."
"There was an agreement on the table that would have put us in a really good place," Mr Pompeo said. "We've asked China to simply do the right thing."
He also suggested the strife in Hong Kong is a result of China's tough methods of governance. "The current unrest in Hong Kong shows that the will and the voice of the governed will always be heard," he said. "I hope the way things proceed in Hong Kong, things proceed in a way that is nonviolent."
When asked about the potential for US involvement in Hong Kong, he said: "One thing this administration has been really good about is not tipping our hand to what we will or won't do. And I'm going to do that here this morning."
Meanwhile, Arin Jira, chairman of the Asean Business Advisory Council said Asean must share a strong common voice to tell global superpowers "The world needs economic peace".
At the Asean Ministerial Meeting, Post Ministerial Conferences and related meetings in Bangkok this week, Asean and dialogue partners including the EU underscored their commitment to promoting multilateralism and rule-based free trade.
"Everybody says they support free trade, but in practice they are fighting fiercely against each other. Now smaller countries are following suit," Mr Arin said.
His remarks came as the row between Japan and South Korea escalated leading their foreign ministers to raise the issue at the Asean Plus Three Foreign Ministerial Meeting in Bangkok.