Pompeo in Europe, Central Asia Trip, Promotes Fair Economic Cooperation, Warns of China’s High Risk Business Practices

February 5, 2020 Updated: February 5, 2020
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s tour to the UK, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia was focused on bilateral economic and security cooperation and warning the visited countries about China’s unfair, state-led trade, and investment practices.

Secretary Pompeo traveled to London a few days before Britain’s departure from the European Union where he met with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to re-affirm the Special Relationship between the UK and the United States after Brexit and discuss strengthening their bilateral ties, including negotiating a free trade deal.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab meets U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Foreign Secretary's Residence on January 29, 2020 in London, England. (Peter Summers/Getty Images)
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab meets U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Foreign Secretary’s Residence in London, England on Jan. 29, 2020 (Peter Summers/Getty Images)

Pompeo also discussed with his UK counterpart Raab the security of U.S. intelligence sharing with the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, through the “Five Eyes” privileged sharing system.

The UK announced granting the Chinese telecom giant Huawei a role in building “non-sensitive” parts of Britain’s next-generation wireless network.

The United States warned Britain repeatedly during past months that such a decision could pose a high risk to the security of its networks, and the United States would have to reconsider intelligence sharing with allies that use Huawei.

“This is an extension of the Chinese Communist Party with a legal requirement to hand over information to the Chinese Communist Party,” Pompeo said about Huawei ahead of his arrival in London.

Raab explained at a press conference that the UK made its decision after “three years” worth of analysis. He believes the UK can protect its security as well as the security of information exchange with its allies, through the Five Eyes. He also brought up a point that it was a “market failure” where only three major vendors make kit suitable for 5G networks—Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia—and “we, as a government, as a country, take some responsibility for [that].”

After the meeting, Pompeo said both countries would find a way to ensure the high security of their systems to avoid cutting intelligence sharing.

Pompeo was also optimistic regarding the future of the Special Relationship post-Brexit. He said that “the core set of relationships” built upon decades will remain. “We will be able to reduce transaction costs and share in ways that we could not do when the United Kingdom was part of [the EU] … Some of this will be worked out through the free trade agreement. Some of it will be worked out by entrepreneurs just kicking it and getting it right,” Pompeo said.

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky during a press conference at Zelensky’s office in Kyiv, Ukraine on Jan. 31, 2020. (Anastasia Vlasova/Getty Images)

Visiting Eastern Europe

Pompeo continued his tour by visiting Ukraine and Belarus in Eastern Europe, and Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia. All four countries were once part of the former Soviet Union and upon its dissolution in 1991 declared their independence. The United States almost immediately recognized their independence.

In Kyiv, Pompeo met with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko, a few days after the United States imposed a fresh round of sanctions related to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Pompeo re-affirmed the Crimea Declaration issued by the United States in 2018, which states that “Crimea is a part of Ukraine and the United States will never recognize Russia’s attempts to annex it,” at a joint press conference with Zelensky.

He also said that the United States supports a diplomatic solution to the Russia-instigated conflict in east Ukraine. “We will never accept anything less than the full restoration of Ukraine’s control over its sovereign territory,” Pompeo said.

The United States has provided $1 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since 2017. Zelensky said that it was mostly military aid that included supplying arms and equipment like anti-tank Javelin missiles and training for the Ukrainian military.

Zelensky said that his country is also interested in increasing investment and trade cooperation with American companies in developing Ukraine’s infrastructure, including building railways, roads, and bridges, as well as in the natural gas and oil sector.

Pompeo said they discussed these trade and investment opportunities. Still, the prerequisite for Ukraine to attract American investment is to increase the rule of law and transparency—“… the very things that President Zelenskyy and Ukrainians are fighting for.”

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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko greets U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a meeting in Minsk, Belarus, on Feb. 1, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Pool/Reuters)

When visiting Belarus, Pompeo met Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and the Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei about a month after Russia stopped supplying oil to Belarus after both countries failed to renegotiate an oil price for 2020. [link] Belarus turned to import oil from Norway in January.

The United States offered to supply Belarus with all of its oil and gas needs at competitive prices, said Pompeo at a joint press conference with Makei.

Pompeo and Makei agreed that both countries have the will to develop bilateral relations starting with “the returning of the ambassadors after the 12–years break.”

U.S. relations with Belarus worsened in 2006 when the United States imposed sanctions on Belarus after a presidential election that “violated international norms,” according to a statement.

“The United States wants to help Belarus build its own sovereign country,” said Pompeo. The Belarusian government has already signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense and the FBI on cooperation in information exchange on security threats, border security, cybersecurity and countering narcotics.

Both countries want to increase economic cooperation, but Pompeo said that Belarus needs to create conditions for American businesses to enter their market. The country needs to enter the World Trade Organization, develop further its private sector, make legal and regulatory changes, Pompeo said.

For the United States to lift the sanctions, Belarus needs to improve its human rights record, which includes further steps in countering human trafficking and improving religious freedom.

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Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City, on Sept. 24, 2019. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Visiting Central Asia

Following his visit to Belarus, Pompeo traveled to Central Asia, first to Kazakhstan and the next day to Uzbekistan where he also participated in the C5+1 Ministerial meeting.

In Kazakhstan, he met with Kazakhstani President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, First President Nursultan Nazarbayev, and his counterpart Mukhtar Tleuberdi. He warned them of Chinese influence and investment that comes with a cost to sovereignty and may hurt, instead of help, the country’s long-term development.

While fully supporting Kazakhstan’s freedom to choose companies the country wants to do business with, Pompeo advised doing business with American companies as this can bring benefits like job creation, transparency in contracts, and care of the environment. Among American companies investing in Kazakhstan are Tyson Foods, Chevron, and Exxon Mobil.

He also said that further strengthening the rule of law is needed to expand economic cooperation further.

Pompeo also commended Kazakhstan for repatriating nearly 600 its ISIS terrorists and providing access to Afghanistan.

In Uzbekistan Pompeo met with Uzbekistani President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov. He recognized the progress made by Uzbekistan over the past three years in respecting “human rights, religious freedom, liquidation of forced labor and child labor, and the creation of the conditions for freedom of speech,” but stressed that further strengthening the rule of law is needed.

Currently, the total American investment in Uzbekistan exceeds $1 billion, and the 20 major deals with U.S. companies signed by Uzbekistan in 2018 “will create thousands of jobs in both the United States and Uzbekistan,” Pompeo said in a statement.

Uzbekistan also cooperates with the United States to secure its border with Afghanistan to “prevent the movement of foreign terrorist fighters, narcotics traffickers.”

Pompeo also warned Uzbekistan about the potential threat of Chinese investment and influence, “particularly 5G within Huawei and the 5G networks.” American companies’ investments in Uzbekistan create wealth, opportunities, and jobs; the companies obey the local law, do not pollute the environment, and support Uzbekistan’s sovereignty. If other nations invest in the same countries following the rule of law and transparency, the United States welcomes such competition. The United States only warns against doing business with companies that make “state-sponsored, politically driven transactions” of the kind favored by China, Pompeo said.

In both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, Pompeo discussed in his private meetings “the Chinese Communist Party’s repression of Uighur Muslims, Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang,” urging both countries to call on China to stop this persecution.

At the end of his trip, Pompeo participated in a C5+1 Ministerial meeting in Uzbekistan with the foreign ministers of five Central Asian states, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan,

The participants of the Ministerial Summit agreed to foster “regional projects aimed at promoting trade, transport, logistics, and infrastructure ties, promoting entrepreneurship, as well as expanding business and investment contacts between businesses in the participating countries and the U.S.,” says the joint statement adopted at the meeting, as reported by UZ Daily.

The participated countries will join their efforts to support the peace process and “political settlement” of the situation in Afghanistan, as well as cooperate in fighting terrorism, illegal immigration, human and drug trafficking, the statement says.

Epoch Times reporters Bowen Xiao, Zachary Stieber and The Associated Press contributed to this report [link]