U.S. new Indo-Pacific economic framework faces headwinds

(Xinhua) 09:31, May 24, 2022

TOKYO, May 23 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday launched the so-called Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), which a number of countries including Japan have joined, as the new economic initiative raised concerns in the Asia-Pacific.

"In order to prepare our economies for the future, we are launching the process to establish the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity," said a joint statement by member nations of the United States, Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

The U.S.-led IPEF, believed as part of its "Indo-Pacific Strategy", is described as being focused on "four pillars -- trade, supply chains, clean energy and infrastructure, and tax and anti-corruption."

Biden's IPEF vision, if it comes to fruition, will not be without some serious headwinds, partly because a number of the commitments within the framework will be non-binding.

Sources close to the matter have also said that some Asian countries and trade experts have thus far given a circumspect response to the program, as the Biden administration has made it clear that the IPEF will not be a traditional free trade agreement that involves commitments towards tariff-cutting.

In addition, it has also raised some eyebrows that Biden is not willing to risk American jobs by offering increased market accessibility needed by the region.

The Japanese public, in addition, has taken issue with Biden's IPEF and the upcoming Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) between the leaders of Japan, the United States, Australia and India here on Tuesday.

Quad's objective purports to include maritime security, COVID-19 issues, climate change, technological innovation and investment, but all four Quad members have expressed similar yet unfounded opinions about China's "growing assertiveness" in the Asia-Pacific region.

Thus some experts believed Quad was formed as a platform to counter China's peaceful rise and growing influence in the Asia-Pacific.

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi also criticized the United States for creating the Indo-Pacific Strategy to form small cliques in the name of freedom and openness, noting its purpose is to contain China.

Wang said the framework attempted to erase the name "Asia-Pacific" and the effective regional cooperation architecture in the region when he and visiting Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari jointly met the press after their talks on Sunday.

"Facts will prove that the so-called Indo-Pacific Strategy is in essence a strategy that creates divisions, incites confrontation and undermines peace. No matter how the strategy is airbrushed or disguised, it is bound to be a failed strategy," he said.

On Sunday, protesters took to the streets in central Tokyo against the Indo-Pacific strategy including Quad, denouncing the movement towards division and not harmony, and brinkmanship leading to confrontation instead of regional solidarity for the good of the region.

One group of protesters among the thousands were carrying a banner that read in both Japanese and English: "CRUSH! Japan-U.S. & Quad Summit for War."

(Web editor: Peng Yukai, Hongyu)


Related Stories