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Sen. Bill Hagerty joins call for Biden admin to host Asian economic summit to gain leverage over China

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Tennessee Sen. Bill Hagerty and three other lawmakers are making a bipartisan push for the Biden administration to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 2023 in order to “seize” the momentum from China and establish economic policies for the region that are more favorable to the United States and its allies.

The Volunteer State Republican, along with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Reps. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), and David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) “are calling to have the U.S. host the APEC meetings in 2023. We must play a leadership role in this forum to ensure we do not cede ground & allow economic rules of the road to be written by others who use APEC to push harmful policies,” Hagerty noted in a tweet with screenshots of a letter the four lawmakers sent to several State Department officials including Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“We write to ask that you seize the opportunity for the United States to host the APEC meetings in 2023,” the lawmakers wrote. “APEC members represent seven of the top 15 markets in the world for U.S. goods exports, and according to estimates from the Department of Commerce, over 6.1 million American jobs are supported by U.S. exports of goods and services to the APEC region.”

The lawmakers also praised the administration for “the importance [placed] on continued American leadership on the world stage, including through engagement in multilateral organizations, which are key vehicles for advancing U.S. foreign policy on a range of issues from security to socioeconomic interests to trade,” the letter stated. “As we work together to compete with the People’s Republic of China from a position of strength, we should use all appropriate bilateral and multilateral tools available.”

They went on to note that as the APEC host, the Biden administration would ensure that the U.S. was able to set the agenda in a way that focused on Washington’s “economic priorities.”

“As 2023 APEC host, the United States would be able to set APEC’s agenda, shaping the institution and the region around our economic priorities, which could include trade as well as environmental cooperation, strengthening health systems, building resilient supply chains, and economic inclusion for women and other segments of the population not able to reach their full potential,” they wrote.

“The United States could also work to secure like-minded partners, like Australia and Japan, as future hosts to help ensure continuity of the U.S. agenda,” the letter added, noting that another U.S. regional ally, South Korea, is hosting the forum in 2025.

But China was clearly the focus.

“As an APEC member, the United States is able to engage regional partners, like Australia, Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan, and to manage strategic competitors – namely, China – on a range of economic policy issues, and work with these partners toward regulatory and policy reforms that are favorable to U.S. firms, workers, and consumers,” they wrote. “If we step back, other APEC members who do not share our interests or values are there to fill the void.”

The National Center for APEC welcomed the move in a Facebook post.

“Thank you, Senators Coons and Hagerty and Representatives Larsen and Schweikert for encouraging President Biden to chair APEC in 2023. NCAPEC is delighted to see bipartisan and bicameral support for this effort,” the organization wrote.

In March, Hagerty pressed the Biden administration to hold China accountable for “malign” behavior ahead of a meeting between Blinken, Biden National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, and Chinese diplomats in Alaska.

“We cannot ignore that China is engaged in ongoing genocide against Uyghurs in Xinjiang province; strong-armed and even illegal tactics to steal intellectual property in the United States and around the world; ending Hong Kong’s autonomy in violation of an international agreement; secrecy and disinformation to frustrate investigations into the origin of the pandemic; increasing threats and intimidation against democratic Taiwan; militarizing the South China Sea to pursue unlawful claims in that region; and economic coercion against U.S. allies to censor criticism and compel concessions,” he said in a statement.

“Because Beijing respects only strength, I urge Secretary of State Blinken and National Security Advisor Sullivan to continue and expand the strong and effective China strategy and policies implemented during the Trump Administration until we and our allies are able to verify that China’s malign activities have ended,” Hagerty added.

Earlier this month in an interview with Fox News, the Tennessee Republican lambasted the administration over policies he believes are helping China gain a competitive edge over the U.S.

“What we’re seeing right now, in either the knee-jerk policies that Biden has used in collapsing our border, the countdown to the WHO in refunding them, Nordstream Two, letting the Russians have that pipeline, entering the START deal with the Russians and getting nothing in return,” he said.

Biden’s “killing the Keystone XL pipeline, stopping all drilling here in America, making us dependent on solar panels from China, on wind turbines from China” means that “China’s laughing all the way to the bank,” he added.

Jon Dougherty

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