TOKYO – President Joe Biden arrived in Japan on Sunday to launch a plan for greater U.S. economic engagement with the Indo-Pacific, which has been criticized before announcing the program, saying it would benefit countries in the region.
In the second leg of his first trip to Asia as president, Biden is set to meet with leaders from Japan, India and Australia, the “quad”, another cornerstone of his strategy against China’s growing influence.
Shortly after Biden’s arrival, he met with Japanese business leaders, including the president of the Toyota Motor Corporation, at the ambassador’s residence in Tokyo, a source familiar with the matter said.
On Monday, he will meet with Emperor Naruhito before holding talks with Prime Minister Fumio Kishidar. He and Kishida are expected to discuss plans to expand Japan’s military capabilities and respond to China’s growing power.
Biden plans to launch the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) on Monday, a program that will bring regional countries closer together through common standards, including supply-chain resilience, clean energy, infrastructure and digital trade.
Washington has lacked an economic pillar for Indo-Pacific engagement since former President Donald Trump abandoned a multinational trans-Pacific trade deal, leaving the field open for Chinese influence.
But the IPEF is less likely to include binding commitments, and Asian countries and trade experts have responded with a steadily warm response to Biden’s reluctance to risk American jobs by offering increased market access to the region.
The White House wanted the IPEF declaration to represent the formal start of talks with a key group of like-minded countries, but Japan wanted to ensure greater participation to include Southeast Asian countries as much as possible, trade and diplomatic sources said.
In light of this, Monday’s event will likely signal an agreement to start talks on the IPEF rather than actual talks, sources said.
Lack of incentives
Beijing has been seen to take a vague view of the planned IPEF.
China welcomes supportive initiatives to strengthen regional cooperation but “opposes divisive and conflict-making efforts,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a statement. “Asia-Pacific should be a high ground for peaceful development, not a geopolitical gladiatorial area. “
“The so-called ‘Indo-Pacific strategy’ is basically a strategy to create division, a strategy to provoke conflict and a strategy to destroy peace,” Wang said.
An Asian diplomat said some members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) could attend the IPEF launch event, but a Japanese finance ministry official said many in the region were reluctant due to a lack of practical incentives such as tariffs.
Matthew Goodman, a trade expert at the Center for Strategic Affairs in Washington, D.C., said: “The White House seems to have decided to make the IPEF a party with an open bar where everyone is invited, and the actual work will begin on Monday morning.” And International Studies.
“Ultimately, if the administration wants to keep countries on board, it has to give it more practical benefits.”
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told Air Force One that Taiwan will not be part of the IPEF launch, but that Washington wants to deepen its economic ties with the self-governing island.
In Tokyo on Tuesday, Biden will attend the second private quad summit.
The four countries share concerns about China, but the Quad as a group has avoided the anti-China agenda, largely because of Indian sensitivities.
India’s strong security ties with Russia and its refusal to condemn its aggression in Ukraine are likely to hamper a strong joint statement on the issue, analysts say.
At their last summit in March, quad leaders agreed that what happened to Ukraine should not be allowed to happen in the Indo-Pacific region – this is a reference to the threat posed by China to Taiwan, although Beijing was not named. (Reporting by Trevor Hunikat Yoshifumi Techmoto; David Brunstrom in Washington, Ellen Lies and Rocky Swift in Tokyo and Martin Pollard in Beijing; Additional reporting by David Brunstrom; Editing by Mary Milliken and William Mallard)