Joe Biden forges new Asia-Pacific economic partnership with 13 countries

US President Joe Biden announced Monday in Tokyo the launch of a new economic partnership in Asia-Pacific. This Economic Framework for the Indo-Pacific, which brings together 13 first countries, is “doomed” to failure, according to China.

It is a project that China sees with a dim view: US President Joe Biden announced, Monday, May 23 in Tokyo, the launch of a new economic partnership in Asia-Pacific with 13 first participating countries, including the States USA and Japan.

The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) is not a free trade agreement, but provides for further integration between its member countries in four key areas: digital economy, supply chains procurement, green energy and the fight against corruption.

“It is a commitment to work with our close friends and partners in the region, on challenges that matter most to ensure economic competitiveness in the 21stand century,” added the American president.

The IPEF initially includes 13 countries: the United States, Japan, India and Australia – the four states making up the diplomatic format of the “Quad” which will meet on Tuesday in Tokyo – as well as Brunei, South Korea , Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

“We share a commitment to a free, open, equitable, inclusive, interconnected, resilient, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region,” the countries, which together account for around 40% of global GDP, said in a joint statement.

As an “open platform”, the IPEF could welcome other countries over time, said Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser.

A project “doomed” to failure, according to Beijing

This American initiative appears clearly intended to offer in Asia-Pacific an alternative to China, the world’s second economic power with growing influence in the region.

Jake Sullivan, Joe Biden’s national security adviser, assured that it was an “open platform” because designed and defined as such, but Beijing feels deliberately excluded and has already made it known.

Washington seeks “to form small cliques in the name of freedom and openness” hoping to “contain China”, criticized Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Sunday, who considers the American project “dedicated” to failure.

Under Donald Trump, Joe Biden’s predecessor in the White House, the United States withdrew in 2017 from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a vast multilateral free trade agreement which was the subject of a new treaty in 2018 without Washington.

Joe Biden has also made it clear that he has no intention of relaunching major free trade agreements, in the face of an American public opinion which mainly sees these treaties as a threat to jobs in the United States.

However, while hailing the IPEF, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reiterated on Monday Japan’s wish to see the United States eventually join the TPP’s successor.

The IPEF is well regarded by the business community in Asia-Pacific, which “is increasingly looking for alternatives to China”, assured the American Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

A partnership without Taiwan

Various experts polled by AFP are however dubious for the moment.

The IPEF “seems to be built on the demonstration that the United States has been a force for stability in the region since World War II and that this justifies alignment with them on regional issues,” said Robert Carnell, chief executive. economist in Asia-Pacific at the Dutch bank ING.

But emerging countries in the region could be less sensitive to this historical heritage compared to “hardcore” Chinese investments, he added.

Washington is trying to “sow discord” with the IPEF. But if it is not a free trade agreement, this partnership risks being “very soft”, especially since many Asia-Pacific countries do not want to offend China, judged Kazuhiro Maeshima, a specialist in American politics at Sophia University in Tokyo.

Illustrating this fragile crest line, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hailed the IPEF, a “precious sign” according to him that the Biden administration “understands the importance of economic diplomacy in Asia”, while judging “positive “also Chinese economic initiatives in the region, in an interview with the Japanese daily Nikkei published on Monday.

Another apparent weakness of the IPEF, the notable absence of Taiwan among the participating countries, while this island – which Beijing would like to see returned to its fold – is a global hub of the semiconductor industry and other technologies. key.

Washington “wants to strengthen its strategic partnership with Taiwan”, including in semiconductors and supply chains, but this will take place “on a bilateral basis”, said Jake Sullivan.

With AFP

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