US’s Indo-Pacific economic plan gets a move on even as China looms


While a dozen countries joined the US in welcoming and launching the IPEF, the joint statement as expected was carefully worded. It said the 13 partner countries Monday launched “collective discussions toward future negotiations’’ on 4 pillars – trade, supply chains, clean energy and tax and anti-corruption.
The US was reported to have diluted the initial draft that called instead for directly launching negotiations in an effort to garner more support from Asean. Seven Asean nations joined the launch but countries considered close to China like Cambodia and Laos stayed away. Significantly, the US has kept Taiwan out of IPEF for now.
While endorsing the initiative, the India readout too said that the partner countries will now begin “discussions’’ focusing on strengthening economic cooperation and achieving shared goals.
The largest Asean nation, Indonesia, seemed to voice some of the concerns within the group as it said at the launch that IPEF must be inclusive and open to all countries in the region and that the Indo-pacific is too large for the benefit of certain countries only.
While the US has clarified that IPEF is not a free trade agreement or a security arrangement, the Chinese in their reaction to the initiative have accused the US of coercing regional countries to take sides between China and the US by economic means.
US authorities have said IPEF will be inclusive and not a closed group. On what role China might play in the future in IPEF, US NSA Jake Sullivan said in Japan the US will work with the “founding partners’’ to determine both the process and criteria by which to add additional members.
“And it won’t just be if you raise your hand, you’re automatically in. But we also want to maintain a proposition of inclusivity and diversity of economies,’’ he said.
The IPEF joint statement invited participation from additional Indo-Pacific partners that shared “our goals, interests, and ambitions for the region’’.
“We share a commitment to a free, open, fair, inclusive, interconnected, resilient, secure, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region that has the potential to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth. We acknowledge our economic policy interests in the region are intertwined, and deepening economic engagement among partners is crucial for continued growth, peace, and prosperity,’’ said the joint statement.


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