In Japan, Biden explains who will join the new Asia trade pact

President Joe Biden is set to launch a new Indo-Pacific trade pact on Monday, designed to signal US commitment to the region and address the need for trade stability in the wake of the chaos caused by the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The White House says the new Indo-Pacific economic framework will help the United States and Asian economies work more closely together on issues like supply chains, digital commerce, clean energy, worker protections and anti-corruption efforts. The details have yet to be negotiated among member countries, making it difficult for the government to say how this framework can deliver on the promise of helping U.S. workers and businesses while meeting global needs.

The countries signing the framework were to be announced Monday during Biden’s visit to Tokyo for talks with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. It is the latest move by the Biden administration to preserve and expand US influence in a region that until recently appeared to be under growing Chinese influence.

Biden is in the middle of a five-day visit to South Korea and Japan — the first trip to Asia of his presidency — that ends Tuesday. The White House announced plans to build the economic framework in October to replace the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the US withdrew from in 2017 under then-President Donald Trump.

The new pact comes at a time when the government believes it has the edge in its competition with Beijing. Bloomberg Economics released a report last week forecasting US GDP growth to be around 2.8% in 2022, compared to 2% for China, which has been trying to contain the coronavirus through strict lockdowns while tackling a housing bust has to fight. The slowdown has undermined assumptions that China would automatically oust the US as the world’s leading economy.

“The fact that the United States is set to grow faster than China this year for the first time since 1976 is a pretty striking example of how countries in this region should look at the question of trends and trajectories,” White’s national security said House counsel Jake Sullivan.

Critics say the frame has glaring flaws. It does not incentivize potential partners by lowering tariffs or giving signers better access to US markets. These limitations may not make the US framework an attractive alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has continued to evolve after the US exit. China, for many in the region the largest trading partner, is also aiming to join the TPP.

“I think a lot of partners will look at that list and say, ‘That’s a good list of issues. I’m pleased to be a part of it,” said Matthew Goodman, a former director for international economics at the National Security Council during President Barack Obama’s administration.

It is possible for countries to participate in both trade agreements.

Biden was scheduled to visit Emperor Naruhito of Japan Monday at Naruhito’s residence on the Imperial Palace grounds before launching into wide-ranging talks with Kishida over trade, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the North Korean nuclear threat, the COVID-19 between the two countries . 19 answers and more.

Kishida and Biden will also meet with families of Japanese nationals kidnapped by North Korea decades ago. Japan’s prime minister took office last fall and wants to strengthen ties with the US and develop a personal relationship with Biden. He will receive the President at a restaurant for dinner.

The launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, also known as IPEF, has been billed by the White House as one of the bigger moments of Biden’s Asia trip and his ongoing efforts to strengthen ties with Pacific allies. Throughout it all, government officials have kept a close eye on China’s growing economic and military power in the region.

In September, the US announced a new partnership with Australia and the UK called AUKUS, which aims to deepen security, diplomacy and defense cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. Through this AUKUS partnership, Australia will purchase nuclear-powered submarines and the US will increase the deployment of rotational forces in Australia.

The US President also paid close attention to the informal Quad alliance formed during the response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed around 230,000 people. Biden and other leaders from the alliance, which also includes Australia, India and Japan, will meet in Tokyo for their second face-to-face meeting in less than a year. The leaders have also held two video calls since Biden took office.

And earlier this month, Biden gathered representatives from nine of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Washington for a summit, the organization’s first in the US capital. Biden announced at the summit that the US would invest about $150 million in clean energy and infrastructure initiatives in ASEAN.

Sullivan confirmed on Sunday that Taiwan – which had applied for membership in the IPEF framework – is not among the governments to be admitted. An involvement of the self-governing island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own, would have angered Beijing.

Sullivan said the US wants to deepen its economic partnership with Taiwan, including on high-technology and semiconductor supply issues on a one-to-one basis.

Biden will conclude his five days in Asia on Tuesday with the quad meeting and one-on-one meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australia’s newly-elected Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

The centre-left leader of Australia’s Labor Party defeated incumbent Scott Morrison this weekend, ending nine years of Conservative rule.

Modi, leader of the world’s largest democracy, has declined to join the US and other allies in imposing sanctions on Russia over the invasion of Ukraine. In a video call last month, Biden asked Modi not to rush the purchase of Russian oil. In Japan, Biden explains who will join the new Asia trade pact

Bobby Allyn

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