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Biden to Visit India and Singapore

19 July 2013
Vice President Biden and Jill Biden waving from aircraft staircase (AP Images)

Vice President Biden, left, and his wife, Jill Biden, will visit India and Singapore the week of July 22.

Washington — Vice President Biden will visit India and Singapore the week of July 22 to highlight the U.S. rebalancing of its foreign policy toward Asia and the Pacific and to encourage greater economic cooperation, including expanding the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

A senior Obama administration official who spoke to reporters on background in a July 19 teleconference said the vice president will arrive in New Delhi July 22 and meet with Indian officials, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He will also travel to Mumbai during his India visit. His discussions will cover bilateral economic cooperation, energy and climate issues, and cooperation on regional and defense issues, including maritime security, counterterrorism and Asia’s multilateral institutions.

Biden told an audience in Washington July 18 that with regard to Asia and the Pacific, the Obama administration is focused on “the risks of disruptions of commerce, proliferation, human disasters, conflict between nations and the persistent threat posed by North Korea.”

In response, the administration’s approach has been to strengthen its alliances in the regions, deepen security partnerships and invest “like never before” in Asian regional institutions to help them manage disputes peacefully, he said.

Empowered and growing Asian and Pacific region middle classes can help lift the global economy, he said, and progress can be made “if nations reject the temptations of zero-sum thinking and rise peacefully together, if progress toward greater rights and freedoms proves that no country has to make a choice between democracy and development, which is a false choice.”

The senior administration official said Biden plans to make a speech in Mumbai July 25 on ways to improve trade, and how there is a “strategic convergence” between the United States and India on maritime security and navigation, fair trade rules and shared democratic values.

In his remarks, Biden said India is increasingly looking east as a force for security and growth and “to us that’s welcome news.”

“We welcome India’s engagement in the region, and we welcome its efforts to develop new trade and transportation links by land and by sea in the area,” he said.

Before departing for Singapore, the vice president will also give a speech in Mumbai on women’s empowerment and the importance of their increased participation in science and math, the administration official said.

On July 26, Biden will meet with Singaporean leaders including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Tony Tan Keng Yam for consultations on maritime security and the South China Sea, as well as Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, before returning to the United States July 27.

Biden said Singapore, a country of 5 million people, has become the 17th largest economy in the world and is an important U.S. partner on issues ranging from counterproliferation to counterpiracy.

In promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Singapore and elsewhere, “we want to help lead in creating the 21st century rules of the road that will benefit not only the United States and the region, but the world as a whole. The lifeblood of the region, to state the obvious, is economic development,” Biden said.

“To spark new growth, there has to be fewer barriers at and behind our borders; protections for intellectual property to reward innovation; new commitments to make sure everyone plays by the same rules because that’s what attracts investment and jobs; as well as greater economic integration,” Biden said.

The vice president said the Trans-Pacific Partnership is ambitious, but “doable,” and “we’re working hard to get this done this year.”

The vice president’s wife, Jill Biden, will accompany him on the trip, will participate in a health and nutrition event in India, and will take part in events concerning girls’ education and gender-based violence. In Singapore, she will also participate in an early education event and a barbecue for U.S. service members, the official said.