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Chairman Menendez Releases Report on the Obama Administration’s “Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific” Policy

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released a report today titled "Rebalancing the Rebalance: Resourcing U.S. Diplomatic Strategy in the Asia-Pacific Region.”  The report examines the progress made, and the challenges that remain, for the Obama Administration’s strategic policy of “rebalancing” to the Asia-Pacific.

“The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has a duty and responsibility to assure that resources are allocated efficiently and effectively to address U.S. foreign policy priorities”, said Chairman Menendez. “That includes, first and foremost, Western Hemisphere Affairs, but also the Asia-Pacific region, given its significance for U.S. security, economic, political and diplomatic interests. A successful rebalance must underscore an enduring U.S. commitment to the region across the full range of U.S. Government activities. Despite progress in some areas, implementation of the rebalance thus far has been uneven, creating the risk that the rebalance may well end up as less than the sum of its parts. This report provides additional insight and perspective on the rebalance, and recommendations on how to properly resource and implement the policy to meet its strategic goals of enhancing prosperity, security, democratic values and human development in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Commenting on the report, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said that “The Obama Administration's commitment to rebalance our investments in the Asia-Pacific region was the right decision. As the United States’ attention is drawn to crises around the world, our actions and resources must demonstrate that our rebalance policy remains unchanged. Promoting prosperity, security, democratic development, and people-to-people ties are critical to the region and the United States.”

The report includes the following recommendations:

  • The United States government needs to approach the rebalance with a well-coordinated, whole of government approach that synchronizes and sequences the military-security elements and the diplomatic, economic and civil society elements, including targets and timelines, so that all move in a parallel and mutually reinforcing fashion.
  • The rebalance should seek to encourage and shape the development of a positive and productive China that is fully supportive of regional norms and institutions and that plays by regional rules-of-the-road and international law.
  • The United States should increase personnel and resources to the State Department's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and expand and improve inter-agency coordination in the region.
  • To better foster business, cultural and people-to-people connections, the State Department should redouble efforts to support U.S. students to study in the region, ensure faster processing for non-immigrant visas for tourism and conferences, and increase resources for public diplomacy.
  • To strengthen economic relationships, the U.S. Government should create more capacity for strategic thinking on regional economic policy by creating an East Asia-Pacific office in the State Department’s Economic & Business Affairs Bureau, filling vacant Foreign Commercial Staff (FCS) positions and increasing FCS posts in the region, and increasing USTR resources to pursue high-quality bilateral and regional trade agreements.
  • The U.S. Government should increase development assistance funding to the region, look for opportunities for better coordination between export promotion and development agencies, institutionalize the success of the Lower Mekong Initiative, support ASEAN connectivity, and scale-up public-private partnerships and donor coordination.
  • The U.S. Government should devote additional resources and support for the development of regional institutions, including for maritime security issues, and leverage U.S. expertise and capability in disaster response, humanitarian assistance and health issues.
  • The U.S. Government should supplement bilateral hub-and-spokes alliances with a network-centric approach and enhance regional maritime domain awareness capabilities and coordination on maritime security issues.
  • The U.S. Government should ensure that human rights and civil society institution-building efforts reflect the importance of these issues for U.S. interests and values, including expanding assistance programs that strengthen rule of law and support for institutions such as the Asia Foundation and East-West Center, which help advance U.S. values and interests in the region.

The report also recognizes that Congress has an important role to play in these efforts, both with its own activities as well as in ensuring that the necessary resources are authorized and appropriated to make the rebalance a success.

Chairman Menendez traveled to Asia in August of 2013 to engage in discussions in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China on U.S. policy in the region, and in 2013 and 2014 the Foreign Relations Committee has held a series of hearings through its East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, Chaired by Senator Cardin, exploring various elements of the rebalance.