Indo-Pacific economic talks begin

Indo-Pacific economic talks begin

Fair trade and clean energy among areas in focus for 14 countries gathered in Australia

US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attend the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) launch event in Tokyo in May this year. (Reuters File Photo)
US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attend the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) launch event in Tokyo in May this year. (Reuters File Photo)

Japan, the United States, Australia and other nations on Saturday opened their first in-person round of negotiations aimed at setting economic rules and standards in the Indo-Pacific amid China’s growing clout in the region.

The six-day meeting in Brisbane, Australia follows a ministerial gathering involving 14 members of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), which represents 40% of global gross domestic product, according to the US government.

The negotiations will centre on four pillars — fair trade, supply chain resilience, infrastructure and clean energy, and tax and anti-corruption. The administration of US President Joe Biden has excluded politically sensitive tariff-cutting talks that are traditionally part of free trade agreements.

Under the trade pillar, the members plan to negotiate commitments in areas such as trade facilitation, which can be improved through simplified customs procedures, and agriculture, which may be facing unjustified export restrictions.

A senior Biden administration official said before the meeting that trade facilitation and agriculture are among areas that seem to have “real consensus”.

The IPEF was launched during Biden’s visit to Tokyo in May. The other partners are Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

In the first in-person ministerial meeting held in Los Angeles in September, the members agreed to start formal negotiations.

The IPEF is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to economically re-engage with the fast-growing region, after his predecessor Donald Trump withdrew the United States from what was then known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal in 2017.

In October, Canada said it would seek membership to the IPEF, with the Biden administration expressing support for Canada’s bid.


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