The United States and the European Union are increasingly on the same page in countering China's growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman indicated Friday following talks with the secretary general of the EU's diplomatic service.
"We see our approach and the EU's approach to the PRC as complementary and increasingly convergent and aligned," Sherman said at an online event hosted by a Washington think tank, referring to the acronym for China's official name, the People's Republic of China.
Sherman met European External Action Service Secretary General Stefano Sannino in Washington for two days in a row for talks that separately focused on China and the Indo-Pacific, discussing issues including Beijing's human rights abuses, Taiwan and the coordination on infrastructure development projects in the region.
Sannino, speaking along with Sherman during the event, said, "We do recognize the importance of China in the world, but at the same time we are not shying away when China is challenging...our ways of thinking, our ways of operating and when it is not playing according to rules."
On Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic island facing growing Chinese military pressure, Sherman and Sannino affirmed their "interest in stability and the status quo in the Taiwan Strait," according to a joint press release issued after the high-level consultations on the Indo-Pacific that took place on Friday.
"Both sides noted a shared interest in deepening cooperation with Taiwan," the press release said.
The two also reaffirmed the U.S. and EU goal of promoting infrastructure development in the region, in an apparent effort to provide an alternative to China's Belt and Road, a massive cross-border infrastructure scheme critics say is intended to draw countries deeper into Beijing's economic orbit.
The EU has recently announced its "Global Gateway" investment plan that aims to mobilize up to 300 billion euro ($339 billion) between 2021 and 2027, which Sherman welcomed as a move that will complement the U.S.-led "Build Back Better World" infrastructure initiative agreed on during the Group of Seven summit in June.
The formal launch of the Build Back Better World is expected early next year.
"Together, these efforts will help the U.S. and the EU mobilize resources to promote sustainable, inclusive, economic development around the world, including through transparency, high quality investments in infrastructure," Sherman said.
Sherman said the two sides are discussing the possibility of joint and parallel projects, but noted that the coordination on the issue may not necessarily mean co-financing a deal.
The United States may take the lead in some projects, while the EU may take the initiative in others, she said, adding that the intention is "to cover the map" along with other countries such as Japan that are also investing in the region.