President Joe Biden announced in Tokyo on Monday that 13 countries had joined a new, US-led Asia-Pacific trade initiative that was seen as hostile to China’s aggressive expansion in the region.
“The United States and Japan, along with 11 other countries, will launch the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, or IPEF,” Biden told a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
“This framework is a commitment to work with our close friends and partners in the region on the challenges that are most important for ensuring economic competitiveness in the 21st century,” he said.
Biden was due to make an official rollout of the framework later Monday.
He did not say which countries had already signed up to the IPEF, which the White House is billing as a framework that would eventually become a tight-knit group of trading nations.
Unlike traditional trade blocs, IPEF members have no plans to negotiate tariffs and facilitate market access – a tool that has become increasingly unpopular with U.S. voters for fear of undermining domestic production.
Instead, the program predicts integration of partners through agreed criteria in four key areas: digital economy, supply chain, clean energy infrastructure, and anti-corruption measures.
Since taking office in 2021, Biden has pushed for the rapid restructuring of the weakened strategic military and trade alliances under his predecessor, Donald Trump.
IPEF aims to offer an alternative to US allies for China’s growing trade presence across Asia-Pacific.
However, after Trump’s 2017 withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Washington has no political will to return to a tariff-based Asia trade agreement – a huge trade bloc that was revived as widespread and progressive in 2018 without US membership. Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
China has criticized the IPEF for trying to create a closed club. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, denied the allegations and told reporters “this is an open platform by design and definition.”
Sullivan said Taiwan, a self-governing democracy over which China claims sovereignty, was not brought into the primary line-up – despite being an important link in the microchip supply chain.
Sullivan said the United States nevertheless wanted to “deepen our economic partnership with Taiwan, including on high-tech issues, including semiconductors and the supply chain.”
This will happen, however, only on a “bilateral basis”.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)