By MICHAEL S. DOUGLASWASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has agreed to a pact with 12 Pacific Rim countries that will allow the U.S. to keep more than $350 billion in foreign aid to help them cope with rising drug and pollution costs and to counter climate change.
The accord, negotiated with the help of U.N. agencies, is the biggest yet between the United States and Asia, a region with some of the most fragile economies in the world.
The deal, signed by U.R. Secretary-General António Guterres, will also see the United State transfer some $100 billion to help countries such as Vietnam to meet climate goals.
The United States is not among the nations that signed the accord but it has said it would consider signing a similar pact with other nations.
“I’m thrilled to announce today that the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Japan have agreed to support the Pacific Rim region,” Guterre said in a statement.
“This is a milestone for peace and prosperity, and it is a great step forward for our shared future.”
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which has been leading the U:P.
efforts, said it was looking forward to working with the U-Pacific countries on “enhanced economic, development, and climate protection policies”.
“I am confident that these agreements will be an important step forward in reducing the costs of global development,” said Peter Wengert, UNDP deputy director for Asia.
The agreement will also include provisions for a bilateral climate finance and assistance mechanism, an increase in climate finance support from $100 million to $200 million per year, and a new climate fund to provide more financial support to developing countries.
Guterres said the agreement would provide $1.2 trillion in additional global support for the Pacific region, including $300 billion for infrastructure and agricultural development, $100 billions for health and food security, and $100.2 billion for clean energy.
Groups including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, the environmental advocacy group, hailed the pact.
“This historic agreement is a major step forward, not just for the United Nations but for global stability and prosperity,” said Robert Wood Johnson, Greenpeace’s Asia director.
The pact was struck as the United Sates grapples with an opioid crisis, as well as the deadly pandemic that has swept through Southeast Asia.
President Donald Trump has criticized the pact as “mean” and said it “sucks”.
The deal would also help ease concerns that the Trump administration will not meet its climate goals as it seeks to roll back Obama-era environmental regulations.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, the largest free-trade agreement in history, has been stalled by Congress, which has balked at the amount of money being transferred.
(Reporting by Michael Biesecker in Washington; Editing by Andrew Hay)