Indo-Pacific Economic Framework Explained | NHK WORLD-JAPAN News

US President Joe Biden officially launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, or IPEF, during his first presidential visit to Japan.

Here are some explanations of its role and explains why it is received with mixed reception by some Asian countries.

President Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida have agreed to work together to strengthen ties with regional partners, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, and India.

A group of 13 countries – the United States, Japan, India, Australia, Brunei, Thailand, Malaysia, New Zealand, Indonesia, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam – are considering joining IPEF.

IPEF was officially launched in Tokyo on May 23, 2022.

IPEF is not a free trade agreement and is completely different from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

The framework is unique compared to other economic agreements.

Compared to the TPP, which was originally a US-led economic trade pact, the IPEF is only an economic “framework”.

The Biden administration has made it clear that it will not address market access, which means IPEF signatories cannot expect to see lower U.S. tariffs under the initiative. .

This has led some countries to question the merits of membership.

The Biden administration also noted that it would not seek congressional approval for the IPEF, which has fueled uncertainty about the level of U.S. commitment.

Kishida, in a joint press conference with Biden, showed strong support for IPEF, but also reiterated that Japan still wants the US to return to the TPP.

US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio attending an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) launch event in Tokyo.

The United States proposes a “choose and choose” approach

The IPEF consists of four main pillars:

  • Fair and resilient trade
  • Supply chain resilience
  • Clean energy, decarbonization and infrastructure
  • Taxation and the fight against corruption

The United States says members can choose which pillar or pillars they want to join. Japan joins all four, but many Southeast Asian countries may end up choosing to engage with only one or two, notably avoiding the trade pillar.

India’s decision to join IPEF demonstrates that the pick and choose approach may have worked in terms of engagement.

Taiwan’s possible participation could lead to increased tensions between the United States and China

Taiwan had already expressed a desire to join IPEF ahead of Biden’s visit to Japan, but the territory was not included in the list of initial partners.

Meanwhile, China pressured ASEAN countries not to join IPEF.

Is the IPEF an anti-China strategy?

While the IPEF is an opportunity for the United States to demonstrate its re-engagement and leadership in the Indo-Pacific region, some Washington foreign policy experts note that it should not be seen as an explicitly anti-China strategy. .

At a joint press conference in Tokyo this week, Biden suggested the United States would militarily defend Taiwan if China attacked the island. But he also said he was considering cutting tariffs on Chinese goods due to rapid inflation.

Biden appears to be balancing short-term interests with broader goals, and may want to focus on positively influencing IPEF, rather than directly opposing China.

US President Joe Biden discussing the new economic framework during his first trip to Asia in office, in Tokyo on May 23, 2022.

IPEF is still under construction

The White House has boasted that IPEF’s 13 members represent 40% of global GDP. But there are already divisions on how to approach certain issues, including digital trade and decarbonization. This framework is still in its infancy and requires broad commitment to be successful.