Biden unveils Indo-Pacific framework against China during his visit to Japan

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US President Joe Biden announced the launch of a new Asia-Pacific trade network on Monday during a visit to Japan. The framework, which initially includes 13 countries including India and Japan, was touted as a counterbalance to China’s aggressive expansion in the region.

“The United States and Japan, along with 11 other nations, will launch” the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, or IPEF, Biden said at a press conference alongside Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

“This framework is a commitment to work with our close friends and partners in the region on the most important challenges to ensuring economic competitiveness in the 21st century,” he said.

Signatories joining the United States in IPEF are Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Together with the United States, they represent 40% of world GDP.

The countries said in a joint statement that the pact will collectively help them “prepare our economies for the future” following the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Unlike traditional trading blocs, IPEF members are not expected to negotiate tariffs and facilitate market access, which is increasingly unpalatable to US voters who fear undermining local manufacturing.

Instead, the program plans to integrate partners through agreed standards in four main areas: digital economy, supply chains, clean energy infrastructure and anti-corruption measures.

Biden has pushed to quickly rebuild weakened military and trade strategic alliances under his predecessor Donald Trump since taking office in 2021.

The IPEF aims to offer US allies an alternative to China’s growing commercial presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Biden says US will defend Taiwan

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Biden said the United States would militarily defend Taiwan if Beijing invaded the self-governing island, warning that China was “flirting with danger”.

“That’s the commitment we made,” he said when asked if Washington would intervene militarily against a Chinese attempt to forcibly take control of Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province in China. unify with the mainland.

“We agreed with the one China policy, we signed it…but the idea that (Taiwan) can be taken by force is just not appropriate.

“It will dislocate the whole region and will be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.”

In his strongest comments to date on the issue, Biden directly linked the outcome of Western attempts to help Ukraine repel the Russian invasion with lessons likely to be learned in Beijing regarding Taiwan.

It is “important that Putin pays the price for his barbarity in Ukraine,” Biden said. “Russia must pay a long-term price.”

It’s “not just about Ukraine,” Biden said, as China is watching to see if Western pressure on Russia eases.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry thanked the United States for its support and said the government will continue to strengthen its defense and deepen cooperation with countries like the United States and Japan to safeguard its security.

In Beijing, Biden’s comments were met with defiance as China pledged to protect its interests in Taiwan.

“Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said. “The Taiwan issue is a purely internal matter for China,” he added.

The Chinese Communist Party has never controlled Taiwan, but it considers the island its territory and has vowed to take it one day, by force if necessary.

An “open platform”

China has criticized the Indo-Pacific framework – which includes the “Quad” countries of India, Japan, Australia and the United States – as an attempt to create a closed club.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan dismissed China’s concerns, telling reporters “this is by design and by definition an open platform.”

Sullivan, however, said China was not included in the initial list, despite being an important link in microchip supply chains.

He said the United States was “still looking to deepen its economic partnership with Taiwan, especially on high-tech issues, including semiconductors and supply chains.”

However, this will only happen “on a bilateral basis”.

There is no political will in Washington to return to a tariff-based Asian trade deal after Trump withdrew in 2017 from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a huge trade bloc that has been revived, without U.S. membership. United, in 2018 as the Global and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)