United States Congressional committee passes EAGLE Act to address challenges posed by China

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Seeking to strengthen America’s ties with Quad nations — India, Australia and Japan and countries in Southeast Asia, a key US Congressional committee has passed a legislation aimed at addressing the challenges posed by China.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement or EAGLE Act at its meeting here on Thursday.

The legislation along with other things includes key provisions that will strengthen American diplomacy and leadership in the strategically important Indo-Pacific region, including in response to the challenges presented by China.

“I have often said that the United States policy towards China should be to engage in competition when necessary, strengthening our sources of strength at home, and also define what it means for China to ‘cheat’ by strengthening international institutions, laws, and norms,” said Congressman Joaquin Castro.

“The EAGLE Act does just that, providing the United States government the tools and direction to protect our interests in the Indo-Pacific,” the Democratic lawmaker said.

The bill urges the US government to strengthen its engagement with allies and partners in this critical part of the Indo-Pacific and includes provisions to strengthen people-to-people engagement between the United States and the nations of Southeast Asia.

The legislation supports establishing a Quad Intra-Parliamentary Working Group to promote ties between legislators of the United States, Japan, Australia, and India — key partners with shared values and interests in the Indo-Pacific.

Quad is an informal grouping of the US, India, Australia and Japan.

The four countries had in 2017 given shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the “Quad” or the Quadrilateral coalition to counter China’s aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific region.

China, which is flexing its military muscles in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

The country claims almost all of the 1.3 million square miles of the South China Sea as its sovereign territory. China has built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs it controls in the region.

China has been building military bases on artificial islands in the region also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Both maritime areas in the South and East China seas are stated to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources and are also vital to global trade.

The bill also seeks to establish US policy that the United States ambassador to the United Nations serve as a member of the President’s Cabinet.

It includes key provisions of the WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) Act to counter the People’s Republic of China’s proliferation of ballistic missiles and nuclear technology to the Middle East.

It also seeks to strengthen the US Development Finance Corporation by increasing its liability cap from USD 60 billion to USD 100 billion and requiring its equity investments to be treated as consistent with the Federal Credit Reform Act, significantly improving its ability to make investments to support international development goals.

The bill extends key provisions to the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act that supports US priorities in the Indo-Pacific and is set to expire in 2023 by three years to 2026 and expand the authorisation of appropriations from USD 1.5 billion a year to USD 2 billion a year.

It calls on the International Olympic Committee to rescind ‘Rule 50′ which prohibits political expression by athletes when competing in the Olympics and affirms the rights of athletes to criticise the governments hosting any athletic competition.

It seeks to extend the statutory authorisation of the Global Engagement Center, an innovative Department of State office that counters disinformation by US adversaries, which is due to expire in 2024 by three years to 2027.

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