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Secy of State Antony Blinken

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The US has to revitalise its alliances and partnerships, outcompete China, and defend the international rules-based order against those who would seek to undermine it, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday. Blinken also told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which held a hearing on 2021 budget requests, that the US is working with the Quad countries to work together in the Indo-Pacific region.

“We’ve got to revitalise our alliances and partnerships, outcompete China, and defend the international rules-based order against those who would seek to undermine it, renew democratic values at home and abroad, and push back against malign activity by our adversaries,” he said. “In a more competitive world, other countries are making historic investments in their foreign policy toolkits. We need to do the same. That’s why in this budget, we’ve requested USD 58.5 billion for the State Department and USAID for Fiscal Year 2022,” he said, adding that this budget will strengthen global health.

“The United States has been a leader in this field for decades in Africa and around the world. We’re asking for USD 10 billion for global health programs, including nearly USD 1 billion for global health security, to help us prevent, prepare for, and better respond to future global health crises so we can stop outbreaks before they turn into pandemics that put our safety and our prosperity in danger,” he said. He said that the budget will accelerate the global response to climate change and the climate crisis by providing USD 2.5 billion for international climate programs, including USD 1.25 billion for the Green Climate Fund, to help developing countries implement climate adaptation and emissions mitigation programs.

Blinken said the budget will double down on the fight for democracy, which, he said, is under threat in too many places. “Our budget request includes USD 2.8 billion in foreign assistance to advance human rights, to fight corruption, stem the tide of democratic backsliding, and strengthen and defend democracies, for example, through technical training for elections and support for independent media and civil society. It also requests USD 300 million for the National Endowment for Democracy,” he said. Responding to a question from Congressman Gregory Meeks, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Blinken said that China invests about 50 per cent of its global assistance and 50 per cent of its economic diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific. “So this is clearly a priority for them,” he said.

“We are working closely with partners to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific. And our budget reflects that. We have a significant budget allocation for work in the Indo-Pacific for work that we hope the Congress will support, and this will help us engage effectively in the region,” he said. He said the President held the “first ever leaders’ summit among the so-called Quad countries: the United States, India, Japan, Australia. We are working with them across a number of fronts to strengthen the work that-that we do together in the region.” Meeks said last month he unveiled the Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement Act or the EAGLE Act which will reinvigorate US institutions and America’s diplomatic efforts to effectively respond to the challenge that’s posed by China and boost US engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.

“In these efforts we must tack from a position of strength but emphasize it through the values that set our nation apart including multilateralism and building alliances, promoting human rights and democracy, and leading the fight against climate change,” he said and asked Blinken what are the most critical step to take to advance US engagement, values, and interests in the Indo-Pacific region? Blinken said the budget includes a request of USD 3.6 billion to “pay our assess contributions in full to international organizations, initiatives, and peacekeeping efforts, including to restore America’s annual contributions to the World Health Organization.” “As China and others work hard to bend international organisations to their world view, we need to ensure that these organisations instead remain grounded in the values, principles, and rules of the road and rules of the world that have made our shared progress possible for so many decades,” he said.

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