Biden unveils Indo-Pacific economic framework to counter China

U.S. President Joe Biden, left, and with Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, reviews an honor guard during a welcome ceremony
Eugene Hoshiko, Pool/Associated Press
U.S. President Joe Biden, left, and with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, reviews an honor guard during a welcome ceremony.

President Biden on Monday announced a new framework meant to guide U.S. economic involvement in the Indo-Pacific over the long term while in Japan as part of his first trip to Asia as commander in chief.

The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) aims to deepen trade ties between the U.S. and a dozen other countries signing onto it — Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Taiwan is not among the group, despite bipartisan calls from lawmakers that the island nation be included in the framework.

The new pact aims to boost U.S. leadership in the region while countering China’s rise five years after former President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, an Obama-era achievement that similarly aimed to bolster U.S. involvement in Asia. 

According to a White House fact sheet, the framework will focus on trade, supply chains, climate change and anti-corruption. The White House billed the new effort as a way to lower domestic inflation over the long term, something Biden has singled out as his top priority.

“The United States is an Indo-Pacific economic power, and expanding U.S. economic leadership in the region is good for American workers and businesses — as well as for the people of the region,” the fact sheet states.

“IPEF will enable the United States and our allies to decide on rules of the road that ensure American workers, small businesses, and ranchers can compete in the Indo-Pacific,” it says. “This framework will help lower costs by making our supply chains more resilient in the long term, protecting us against costly disruptions that lead to higher prices for consumers.”

While the fact sheet does not mention China, the framework is widely viewed as an effort to counter Beijing’s growing influence in the region.

Biden, whose trip has included stops in South Korea and Japan, appeared at the Izumi Garden Gallery in Tokyo on Monday to deliver remarks on the long-awaited framework, following a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Representatives from other countries launching the framework joined the event either in person or virtually.

“We’re writing the new rules for the 21st century economy that are going to help all of our countries’ economies grow faster and fairer,” Biden said. 

Biden is likely to receive criticism for Taiwan not being included in the framework’s launch. A bipartisan group of senators wrote to Biden last week asking that he include Taiwan in the framework to demonstrate U.S. support for the country at a time it is facing threats from China.

“The more economic engagement U.S. and allies and partners have with Taiwan, the stronger our collective resilience against coercion,” the group, led by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and James Risch (R-Idaho), wrote.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shows the value of tangible economic support by the United States and like-minded allies and partners, and the same is true for Taiwan. Including Taiwan in the IPEF would be an invaluable signal of our rock-solid commitment to Taiwan and its prosperity and freedom,” they added.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed Sunday that Taiwan would not be part of the framework launch and insisted the U.S. is pursuing deeper economic ties with Taiwan “on a bilateral basis.”

“We are looking to deepen our economic partnership with Taiwan, including on high-technology issues, including on semiconductors and supply chains,” Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One.

Biden emphasized during his remarks on Monday that the framework “will be open to others who wish to join in the future if they sign up and meet the goals and work to achieve those goals.” 

The framework is broken down into four “pillars” focused on establishing new “rules of the road” for trade and the digital economy, boosting cooperation on supply chains, setting new climate change commitments and working to crack down on money laundering and bribery.

According to the White House, the countries will set up an “early warning system” and map out critical mineral supply chains to better anticipate and prevent disruptions in global supply chains like the world has experienced amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the framework does not lay out specific targets on climate change or other areas of focus, and instead launches discussions to establish concrete commitments.  

“There will be firm commitments. There will be signed agreements. And like any agreement, you know, we plan to have high-standard commitments that will be enforceable,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told reporters on a call discussing the framework. “Tomorrow is the starting gate.”

In a joint statement Monday, the 13 countries cited the pandemic as underscoring the need for their economies to work together to “ensure that economic recovery and advancement are grounded in resilience, sustainability, and inclusivity.”  

“In the long term, economic competitiveness will be largely defined by our ability to harness technology, promote innovation, participate in the digital economy, justly transition energy systems and achieve energy security, and tackle the climate crisis in a manner that produces equitable, inclusive growth and improves socio-economic welfare,” the joint statement reads.  

Updated at 7:34 a.m.

Tags #Economy Biden Biden Asia Trip Biden Asia trip China Economy Indo-Pacific IPEF IPEF Jake Sullivan Trump

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