Biden Launches New Asia Pacific Economic Bloc with 12 Allies

SEOUL — Five years after former President Biden withdrew the United States from an all-out trade deal negotiated by his predecessor, Biden is a new, loosely defined economic bloc to confront Chinese domination and reaffirm American influence in the region. 12 Asia Pacific countries were recruited to join. itself.

Through the alliance, the United States, along with regional powers such as Japan, South Korea and India, will establish new commercial rules and provide an alternative to China’s leadership in some of the world’s fastest-growing regions. But Biden’s new partnership, wary of domestic liberal opposition, will avoid the market access provisions of traditional trade deals, raising questions about how meaningful this will be.

Former Vice President Joe Biden will officially launch his name Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity in Tokyo on Monday, where several leaders from the new network will join in person or virtually. are going to do This marks the heart of his broader strategy not only for President Donald J. Trump’s first trip to Asia as president, but also for the Asian region at a time when China is increasingly filling the void when he pulled the United States out of the Pacific Rim. 2017 partnership.

Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo, who will lead part of the negotiations sparked by the agreement, told reporters on Sunday that “it is, after all, the most important international economic engagement the United States has made in the region.” “And starting here in Tokyo tomorrow marks a significant turning point in restoring US economic leadership in the region and providing Indo-Pacific countries with an alternative to China’s approach to these important issues.”

In addition to the United States, India, Japan and South Korea, Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are made up of 13 countries. Countries participating together make up about 40% of the global economy, and the specific agreements that emerge from grouping can go a long way in setting standards beyond member states.

Amidst uncertainty and skepticism in the region about what the new framework actually means, US officials have been busy lining up many major countries in recent weeks to make a big impression with a brilliant start. Personally, they said all the countries they seriously targeted had agreed to join, but some analysts wondered if any guarantees or compromises offered to entice participation would cut the scope of the new block.

The new Biden initiative connects 15 Asia-Pacific economies in the world’s largest trading bloc, less than five months after the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership was officially launched. Most of the countries that Biden has signed on to his framework are already part of the Chinese bloc.

For the United States, the new framework effectively replaces the broader Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement as the primary vehicle for shaping the flow of goods and services within the region. President Barack Obama negotiated a TPP with Biden as vice president, but Trump abandoned the TPP during his first weekday in office, and the bloc went without the largest member.

But rather than simply rejoining the partnership, as Japan, Singapore and other countries wanted, Biden essentially abandoned the partnership, respecting opposition within his own party. To appease his liberal base, the new framework will not lower tariffs, unlike the TPP and other traditional free trade agreements.

Business executives say the Chinese-led bloc has now done more to define trade in the region, despite making little demands on its member states and focusing primarily on limiting bureaucracy. In contrast, America’s vision for the region is ambitious, aiming to raise labor and environmental standards. But without providing more access to the market, analysts say the US doesn’t have many carrots to encourage these changes.

Aaron Connelly, a research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said: “It will be difficult to convince Asian governments to change the rules in a way that could disrupt the political economy without a promise to increase access to US markets.” said. in Singapore.

The framework will focus on four main goals: harmonizing efforts to secure supply chains, expanding clean energy, combating corruption and paving the way for greater digital trade. With the start of Monday, negotiations in each sector will soon follow, led by US Trade Representative Raimondo or Katherine Tai.

Each of the thirteen participating countries can choose which of the four sectors they wish to pursue their trade without. The parameters for the negotiations should be set by the end of June or early July, and the administration hopes to finalize all agreements within 12 to 18 months and then submit them to their respective governments for ratification.

As officials prepare for new initiatives, it becomes clear that the wounds of the TPP are ingrained in the Biden administration. Tai admitted on Sunday frankly that the TPP’s “biggest problem” was “we didn’t get the support to get through Congress at home,” even before Trump was elected. “There was a very strong lesson in the TPP, which is ultimately very fragile and the United States cannot deliver as planned,” she said.

She said labor and environmental groups would “take the top spot” in the new framework, but she disputed whether the consensus emerging from the framework would be submitted to Congress for approval. “Let’s see where these negotiations take us,” she said.

But other administration officials, who requested anonymity to discuss the internal deliberation, separately said they wouldn’t have to go to Congress if tariffs weren’t on the table.

The types of agreements currently being envisioned are binding and non-binding, and could be achieved through enforcement agreements, they said. Nevertheless, one official added that the administration will consult with Congress as if approval is needed to rebuild trust and build lasting bipartisan support for all final deals, based on TPP experience.

Membership in the new framework overlaps with TPP membership, but not exactly. Seven countries will be in both, but several members of the TPP have not signed the framework. Two of them, Canada and Mexico, may be less important as they already have their own North American Free Trade Agreement with the United States, which was recently updated by President Trump.

Raimondo said the new framework goes beyond “outdated, outdated” free trade agreements, but partners in Asia still want the old-fashioned trade agreements. Countries like Singapore have tried to convince the US to use the framework as a stepping stone to rejoin the Biden team’s non-starter TPP.

Even the more restrictive Biden framework should skillfully manage Democrat supporters. Labor groups in the US are already skeptical of a wide range of new promises, including digital provisions, which could lead to more outsourcing in sectors such as healthcare and other service industries.

Former Vice President Biden will be in Tokyo for the announcement on Monday, along with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanesse on Saturday. Some other leaders will participate by video and some will have pastors represent them.

kick off It’s been a busy two days for Biden to meet each of the three leaders individually, in addition to the four summits representing the Quad, a security-oriented bloc formed several years ago amid growing concerns about China’s military footprint. parts of Asia and the Indian Ocean.

However, economic issues were clearly a top priority for Biden during his visits to Korea and Japan. As fears of rising inflation, stock market declines and a recession spread across the country, the president wants to show that he is focused on stabilizing the economy, especially ahead of the midterm elections, which are just five months away.

Before departing for Tokyo on Sunday, former Vice President Joe Biden and Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Eui-sun congratulated him on plans to build a new $5.5 billion electric and battery manufacturing plant in Savannah, Georgia. It continues the administration’s strategy of pointing to job growth as Republican lawmakers escalate their attack on high inflation, creating 8,000 jobs.

“These investments are part of a trend in our administration,” Biden said, adding that “will help the White House deliver on its clean energy commitments.” “Manufacturing jobs are coming back to America.”

Such announcements often contain a political element. Biden framed the investment as a result of his administration and the efforts of Georgia’s Democratic senators, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

But he wasn’t the only one eager to claim credit. Just two days ago, Prime Minister Chung was standing next to Republican Governor Brian Kemp in Georgia as he faces the pro-Trump primary, celebrating his investment.

Reported by Peter Baker from Seoul and Zolan Kanno-Youngs from Tokyo. Ana Swanson contributed to Washington’s reporting.

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