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    《TAIPEI TIMES》 Biden launches new Indo-Pacific trade initiative

    
From L-R: Japan`s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, US President Joe Biden, and India`s Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity at the Izumi Garden Gallery in Tokyo on May 23, 2022.
Photo: AFP

    From L-R: Japan`s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, US President Joe Biden, and India`s Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity at the Izumi Garden Gallery in Tokyo on May 23, 2022. Photo: AFP

    2022/05/24 03:00

    LEFT OUT: Taiwan has pointedly not been brought into the initial lineup of nations, despite being an important link in supply chains for semiconductors

    / AFP, TOKYO

    US President Joe Biden yesterday launched a new Indo-Pacific trade initiative in Tokyo, with 13 nations including India and Japan signing up, although questions about the pact’s effectiveness remain.

    Biden formally unveiled the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) on his second day in Japan, where he is also holding talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida before joining a regional Quadrilateral Security Dialogue summit today.

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

    Unlike traditional trade blocs, there is no plan for IPEF members to negotiate tariffs and ease market access — a tool that has become increasingly unpalatable to US voters fearful of seeing homegrown manufacturing undermined.

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

    The starting list of members in addition to the US is Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

    The nations touted the IPEF as a framework for what will ultimately become a tight-knit group of trading nations.

    “We share a commitment to a free, open, fair, inclusive, interconnected, resilient, secure, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region,” the nations said in a joint statement.

    “Deepening economic engagement among partners is crucial for continued growth, peace, and prosperity,” they added.

    Together, the participants account for about 40 percent of global GDP and “there are other countries that could conceivably join us,” US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters.

    Taiwan has pointedly not been brought into the initial lineup — despite being an important link in supply chains for semiconductors.

    Sullivan said that nevertheless the US is “looking to deepen our economic partnership with Taiwan, including on high-technology issues, including on semiconductors and supply chains.”

    This would happen only “on a bilateral basis,” he said.

    Biden has pushed to rapidly rebuild strategic military and trade alliances weakened under his predecessor former US president Donald Trump since taking office last year.

    The IPEF is intended to offer US allies an alternative to China’s growing commercial presence across the Indo-Pacific region.

    However, there is no political will in Washington for a return to a tariffs-based Asia trade deal following Trump’s 2017 withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a huge trading bloc that was revived in 2018 as the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), without US membership.

    While the CPTPP was to reduce trade barriers for members, US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo told reporters that the IPEF was not designed to go down the same route.

    The “framework is intentionally designed not to be a same old, same old traditional trade agreement,” she said.

    Even so, Kishida said there is still an appetite for US involvement in the larger pact abandoned by Trump.

    Tokyo welcomes the new framework and will “participate and cooperate,” Kishida said, but “from a strategic standpoint, Japan hopes that the United States will return to the [CP]TPP.”

    China has criticized the IPEF as an attempt to create a closed club.

    Sullivan rejected that, saying “it is by design and definition an open platform.”

    The US faces skepticism, given the lack of incentives to go along with the IPEF’s plan for smoother integration.

    Without offering increased access to the huge US market, it is unclear what enforcement mechanisms could be applied.

    Raimondo said that if the new IPEF had been in place before the COVID-19 pandemic triggered mass economic shutdowns, the US would have “experienced much less disruption.”

    More broadly, the US trade-boosting initiative is welcomed by businesses that “increasingly look for alternatives to China,” she said.

    新聞來源:TAIPEI TIMES

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