The Indo-Pacific economic framework is not a blessing for Asia
Pacific Economic Framework” (IPEF) will bring prosperity to the region. But its sole purpose is to advance “Indo-Pacific strategy” and key U.S. interests instead of spurring the region’s post-pandemic recovery, development and prosperity. Asian countries need to prepare for the negative impact caused by the framework, which could be summed up in “four Ds”.
The IPEF is created to encourage regional economies to “decouple” from the Chinese market by leading them into alternative supply chains, a step that Washington says will help exclude China from regional trade and supply systems. . This would essentially install a closed, exclusive and adversarial arrangement within this region designed with clear geopolitical and ideological intentions, which goes against the principles of multilateralism.
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai has openly described IPEF as an “arrangement independent of China”. Given China’s economic size and influence in the region and the possible consequences of artificially splitting the trading system and cutting supply chains, such an arrangement would not be conducive to unity. and Asia-Pacific regional economic integration.
There is speculation that when it comes to ASEAN countries, the United States is trying to recruit Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam to join IPEF, while leaving out Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Brunei, which will undoubtedly affect the development of the ASEAN community. and undermine ASEAN unity.
The United States claims to support Asean centrality, but the IPEF apparently pays little heed to Asean’s preferred method of inclusive regional cooperation. Such a framework would only weaken and damage the centrality of ASEAN in the regional architecture. The high standards proclaimed by the IPEF in the areas of the digital economy, labour, market surveillance, environmental protection and the fight against corruption are far higher than the standards set by the national laws of some ASEAN countries and even by international conventions.
In a sense, the United States could force these countries to adopt certain domestic economic policies to serve American interests. The exclusive and even punitive provisions contained in the IPEF may contradict commitments made in regional free trade agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Promoting the IPEF is one of the 10 main tasks of US Indo-Pacific strategy. The United States potentially aims to use the IPEF to complement its Indo-Pacific strategy and establish a unilaterally dominating economic cooperation agreement, rather than a true free trade agreement with mutual open market access and tariff exemption like so desired by the countries of the region. This is therefore a departure from the principles of openness, inclusiveness, equality and reciprocity that multilateral mechanisms and arrangements in the region have long followed.
The United States might hope to use the IPEF to enlist regional allies and ASEAN countries to encircle China, but that is unlikely to materialize. China and ASEAN are each other’s largest trading partners. Japan’s exports to China are about the same as those to the United States and import twice as much from China as from the United States.
South Korea’s trade with the United States is only half of its trade with China. With RCEP coming into effect at the start of this year, the potential for cooperation between countries in the region will only be unleashed further. The United States has repeatedly reneged on its words on Asia-Pacific economic and trade cooperation: the Obama administration had advanced the concept of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) before the Trump administration pulled out of it after entering active. Now the Biden administration has come up with the IPEF.
Inconsistency in Washington’s policy-making will only bring into question the credibility and political continuity of the United States by the countries of the region. As Mary Lafley, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, has pointed out, “Asian allies, still reeling from the Trump administration’s unpredictable and destabilizing policies, may be reluctant to invest heavily in new structures that may be so easily destroyed. away like houses of straw.
THE WRITER IS AN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR WHO WRITES REGULARLY FOR CGTN, GLOBAL TIMES AND CHINA DAILY