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Joe Biden presents in Japan the signatories of the new Asian trade pact

TOKYO — United States President Joe Biden is set to launch a new Indo-Pacific trade pact on Monday designed to signal the United States’ commitment to the region and address the need for trade stability after the chaos caused by the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The White House says the new Indo-Pacific economic framework will help the U.S. and Asian economies work more closely on issues like supply chains, digital trade, clean energy, worker protections and control efforts. against corruption.

Details have yet to be negotiated among member countries, making it difficult for the administration to spell out how this framework can deliver on the promise of helping American workers and businesses while addressing global needs.

Countries signing the pact are expected to be announced on Monday during Biden’s visit to Tokyo for talks with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. It’s the latest step for the Biden administration to try to preserve and expand American influence in a region that until recently seemed to be under increasing Chinese sway.

Mr. Kishida organized an official welcome for Mr. Biden at the Akasaka Palace, including a military honor guard dressed in white and a marching band on the plaza. Reviewing the assembled troops, Mr. Biden placed his hand over his heart as he passed the American flag and bowed slightly as he passed that of Japan.

Mr Biden is in the middle of a five-day visit to South Korea and Japan – the first trip to Asia of his presidency – which will end on Tuesday. The White House announced plans to build the economic framework in October as a replacement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership that was scrapped by the United States in 2017 under then-President Donald Trump.

The new pact comes at a time when the administration believes it has the edge in its competition with Beijing. Bloomberg Economics released a report last week forecasting US GDP growth of around 2.8% in 2022, compared to 2% for China, which has tried to contain the coronavirus with strict containment measures while dealing with a real estate crisis. The slowdown has shaken assumptions that China will automatically supplant the United States as the world’s largest economy.

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“The fact that the United States is growing faster than China this year, for the first time since 1976, is a pretty stark example of how countries in this region should look at trends and trajectories.” , said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Critics say the pact has glaring flaws. It does not offer incentives to potential partners by lowering tariffs or giving signatories better access to US markets. These limitations may not make the U.S. pact framework an attractive alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which grew further after the U.S. pullout. China, the largest trading partner for many in the region, is also seeking to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

It is possible for a country to be part of both trade agreements.

The launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, also known as the IPEF, was touted by the White House as one of the highlights of Biden’s trip to Asia and his ongoing efforts to strengthen ties with allies. of the Pacific. Through it all, administration officials have kept a close eye on China’s growing economic and military power in the region.

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