Biden to lay out in Japan who’s joining new Asia trade pact
TOKYO — President Joe Biden on Monday promised “concrete benefits” for the people of the Indo-Pacific region from a new trade pact he was set to launch, designed to signal U.S. dedication to the contested economic sphere and address the need for stability in commerce after disruptions caused by the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Biden met with Fumio Kirishida, the Japanese Prime Minister. He said that the new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework would increase U.S. collaboration with other countries in the region.
The White House stated that the framework will allow the United States and Asian economies to work closer on issues such as supply chains, digital commerce, worker protections, and anticorruption. The details of the agreement are still being negotiated between the member countries. This makes it difficult for the administration not to state how the agreement will fulfill its promise to help U.S. workers, businesses, and meet global needs.
Countries signing on to the framework were to be announced Monday during Biden’s visit to Tokyo for talks with Kishida. This is the latest step taken by the Biden administration in an effort to maintain and expand U.S. power in a region that was previously under the increasing control of China.
Kishida hosted an official state welcome for Biden at Akasaka Palace. This included a white-clad military honor band and guard in the front plaza. Biden looked over the assembled troops and placed his hand on his heart as he passed through the American flag. He also bowed slightly as the Japanese standard was passed.
Kishida, in brief remarks, said he was “absolutely delighted” to welcome Biden to Tokyo on the first Asia trip of his presidency. Along with Biden, he drove a tough line against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, saying it “undermines the foundation of global order.”
Biden, who is in the midst of a five-day visit to South Korea and Japan, called the U.S.-Japanese alliance a “cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific” and thanked Japan for its “strong leadership” in standing up to Russia.
The White House announced plans to build the economic framework in October as a replacement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the U.S. dropped out of in 2017 under then-President Donald Trump. The new pact is announced at a time when the administration feels it has an advantage over Beijing. Bloomberg Economics published a report last week projecting U.S. GDP growth at about 2.8% in 2022 compared to 2% for China, which has been trying to contain the coronavirus through strict lockdowns while also dealing with a property bust. This slowdown has questioned the assumption that China would replace the U.S. as the leading economy in the world.
“The fact that the United States will grow faster than China this year, for the first time since 1976, is a quite striking example of how countries in this region should be looking at the question of trends and trajectories,” said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
Critics claim that the framework has many flaws. It doesn’t offer incentives for potential partners by lowering tariffs, nor does it give signatories greater access to U.S. market markets. These limitations may not make U.S. framework a more attractive option to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Trans-Pacific Partnership still progressed after the U.S. bailout. China, which is the largest trading partner in the region, also wants to join the TPP.
” I think many partners will look at that list, and say, ‘That’s an excellent list of issues. Matthew Goodman, who was a former director for international economy on the National Security Council under President Barack Obama, said that he was happy to participate. But he said they also may ask, “Are we going to get any tangible benefits out of participating in this framework?”
It is possible for countries to be part of both trade deals.
Biden made Monday’s first stop at Emperor Naruhito, Japan. This was before the talks with Kishida.
The two leaders were also scheduled to meet with the families of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea decades back. The Japanese premier, who took office last autumn, is keen to strengthen ties with America and establish a personal relationship. He will host the president at dinner.
The White House has billed the launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (also known as IPEF) as one of the highlights of Biden’s Asia trip as well as his ongoing efforts to strengthen ties with Pacific allies. Administration officials have been keeping a close watch on China’s increasing economic and military power in the region throughout all of this. In September, the U.S. announced AUKUS, a new partnership with Australia/Britain that aims to strengthen security, diplomatic and defense collaboration in the Asia-Pacific region. Australia will buy nuclear-powered submarines through the AUKUS partnership. The U.S. will also increase its rotational force deployments in Australia.
The U.S. president has also devoted great attention to the informal alliance known as the Quad, formed during the response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed some 230,000 people. Biden and other leaders from the alliance, which includes Australia, India, and Japan, will meet in Tokyo for their second meeting in person in less than a decade. Since Biden’s election, the leaders have held two video calls.
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 first ever by the organization in the U.S. capital. Biden announced at the summit the U.S. would invest some $150 million in clean energy and infrastructure initiatives in ASEAN nations.
Sullivan confirmed on Sunday that Taiwan — which had sought membership in the IPEF framework– isn’t among the governments that will be included. Beijing would be furious if Taiwan, China’s self-ruled island, had been included in the IPEF framework.
Sullivan said the U.S. wants to deepen its economic partnership with Taiwan, including on high technology issues and semiconductor supply on a one-to-one basis.
Biden’s five-day trip to Asia will end Tuesday with the Quad meeting, one-on-one discussions with Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister, and Anthony Albanese (Australia’s new prime minister), wrapping up his five-day stay.
The centre-left leader of Australia’s Labor Party defeated Scott Morrison this weekend and ended nine years under conservative rule.
Modi is the leader of the largest democracy in the world and has declined to join the U.S., other allies, in imposing sanctions against Russia for the invasion of Ukraine. Biden asked Modi last month not to accelerate its purchase Russian oil.
Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.
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