TOKYO – President Joe Biden traveled to Japan on Sunday to launch a plan for greater U.S. economic engagement with the Indo-Pacific, which was criticized before announcing the program, saying it would do little good for 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.
In Tokyo on Monday, Biden will meet with Emperor Naruhito before holding talks with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. He and Kishida are expected to discuss plans to expand Japan’s military capabilities and respond to China’s growing power.
Tokyo will also see the launch of Biden’s long-awaited Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Proprietary (IPEF) on Monday, a program that seeks to 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 trade deal known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, 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.
“Japan wanted as many participants as possible … and also wants the United States to conduct an inclusive process of dialogue after the launch,” said a person familiar with the talks.
The source said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Biden and Kishida and other leaders are expected to be present at the launch.
Lack of incentives
A Japanese finance ministry official said many Southeast Asian countries would not join the IPEF due to a lack of practical incentives, such as tariff reductions.
“It’s not a cold decision but a practical decision, probably because it doesn’t really have significant content,” the official said.
However, an Asian diplomat said that at least half of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) could attend the launch.
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.”
In Tokyo on Tuesday, Biden will attend the second private meeting of the Quad Group of Countries.
Everyone is concerned about China, but Quad as a party has avoided publicly pursuing an 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.
However, at their last summit in March, the quad leaders agreed that what happened to Ukraine should not be allowed to happen in the Indo-Pacific region – this is a threat to China’s autonomous Taiwan, although not named by Beijing.
Chinese Ambassador to Korea Liu Xiaoming said on Twitter that Washington was “uniting a closed and exclusive ‘cycle.’ (Reporting by Trevor Haniquat Yoshifumi Techmoto; David Brunstrom in Washington and Ellen Lice in Tokyo; Additional reporting by David Brunstrom; Editing by Mary Milken and William Mallard)