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Janet Yellen to deliver major speech detailing US economic strategy toward Indo-Pacific

By Matt Egan, CNN

New York (CNN) — At a moment of elevated geopolitical danger, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen plans to deliver a major speech on Thursday mapping out the Biden administration’s economic gameplan toward the increasingly volatile Indo-Pacific region, CNN has learned.

The speech will mark the first time the Biden administration has outlined its economic approach toward the region in such detail.

The Yellen remarks come ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) finance ministers’ meeting later in November and a potential high-stakes summit between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in San Francisco.

A Treasury official tells CNN that Yellen, who visited Beijing over the summer, plans to use the speech on Thursday to emphasize that deeper economic ties with the Indo-Pacific will serve three key objectives: Strengthen US national security, benefit US communities and fuel growth across the region.

Even as the world’s attention is on the violence in the Middle East, tensions between China and its neighbors have been on the rise. Recently, China and the Philippines accused each other of causing collisions in a disputed area of the South China Sea.

During the speech before the Asia Society, Yellen plans to detail US efforts to “responsibly manage” the relationship with China while simultaneously deepening ties to partners including Japan, South Korea, India and Vietnam and intensifying engagement through multilateral venues like APEC, the Treasury official told CNN.

Meanwhile, global concern about the health of China’s economy has deepened in recent months as the country’s real estate bust threatens to infect the broader economy. Investors have been yanking money from China’s stock market at an unprecedented pace amid unease over Beijing’s response.

In August, Biden told Democratic donors at a fundraising event that China’s economy is a “ticking time bomb” that could prompt leaders in Beijing to lash out.

“That’s not good because when bad folks have problems, they do bad things,” Biden told donors.

During this week’s speech, Yellen also plans to detail the strategic priorities shaping America’s economic engagements: Boosting trade and investment in the region while creating a level playing field for American workers and advancing US values and interests; friendshoring and other moves to strengthen supply chains and using economic engagements to address climate change and other global challenges, according to Treasury.

Beyond the high-profile trip to China, Yellen has visited the Indo-Pacific multiple times during the Biden administration, including four trips to India, two trips each to Japan and Indonesia and visits to Vietnam and Korea.

In the wake of the China trip, Washington and Beijing have stepped up their communications, including launching a pair of working groups focused on the economy and financial markets that started meeting last week.

During that two-hour financial working group meeting held virtually, US and Chinese officials discussed fighting terrorist financing, anti-money laundering, domestic and global financial stability and other issues, according to Treasury’s readout.

US-China ties hit a low point earlier this year after Biden ordered a Chinese spy balloon to be shot down over the United States.

But Yellen, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other US officials have worked to stabilize that relationship, which is arguably the most important on the planet. A Biden-Xi meeting would be a further signal that this relationship has been steadied. The two men haven’t spoken in person since November 2022 on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali.

On Friday, the White House announced Biden will travel to San Francisco on November 14 to host representatives from the 21 APEC member economies for APEC Economic Leaders’ Week.

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