Pivoting to Asia: A Climate Call to Arms

    27 February 2014

    The first of a series of client alerts examining the Obama administration’s pivot policy as seen from the region.

    The Obama administration’s 2012 “Pivot to East Asia” regional strategy is aimed at focusing upon the rapidly developing economies of South East Asia whose strategic importance to the United States both economically and militarily have been highlighted by the administration.

    The key focus has been identified as: “strengthening bilateral security alliances; deepening [America’s] working relationships with emerging powers, including with China; engaging with regional multilateral institutions; expanding trade and investment; forging a broad-based military presence; and advancing democracy and human rights.”

    In a keynote presentation in Indonesia last week, Secretary of State John Kerry called the need for the global community to act against climate change a matter of security, which he likened to the threat posed by terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

    Citing scientific evidence proving climate change threatens not only the environment but also the world economy, Secretary Kerry urged that action be taken whilst “the window of time is still open” to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. He stressed the “potentially catastrophic effects” of climate change on the global supply chain and the “complacency” around the issue seen in some quarters, yet emphasized his desire to help secure a global climate treaty in 2015, recognizing the administration’s “Pivot to Asia” policy as key in the effort.

    The secretary’s argument is one with which Australia and its close partners in South East Asia are all too familiar. Australia’s relationships with its near neighbors are indeed central to the pivot policy. Indonesia, for example, is underpinned by the Lombok Treaty 2006 and the 2012 Defense Cooperation Arrangement, which provide a framework for addressing traditional and non-traditional security challenges, among which climate change, according to Secretary Kerry, can now be considered.

    Australia’s unique engagements in trade and commerce with its neighbors will ensure that its relationships in the region will be crucial to the realization of the Obama administration’s policy. A significant number of American businesses and investors are already engaging with Australia, which has been more than receptive to the outreach, to ease access into the burgeoning Asian markets.

    Patton Boggs has been called upon for counsel in these matters owing to its credibility and familiarity with the markets and regulatory mechanisms of the region. Our attorneys in Brisbane offer on-the-ground analysis and counsel on matters related to the opportunities the “Pivot to East Asia” will afford. For more information, please contact Patton Boggs Of Counsel Simon Harrison.