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America’s new Asian economic pact: just don’t call it a trade deal And China is not invited

發佈時間 25th May 2022 @ 11:20 AM


U.S. President Joe Biden, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attend the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) launch event at Izumi Garden Gallery in Tokyo, Japan, May 23, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
May 24th 2022 | WASHINGTON, DC

Just three days after being sworn in as president in January 2017, Donald Trump signed an executive order withdrawing America from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (tpp), a 12-country free-trade deal he had railed against on the campaign trail. On May 23rd, 488 days after his own swearing-in, President Joe Biden tried to reverse some of the damage by unveiling a new pact, the 13-country Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (ipef). That Mr Biden took so much longer to launch his Asian trade policy illustrates one basic truth: it is far easier to tear up agreements than it is to craft them anew.

Inevitably, one way to look at the ipef is by way of comparison to the tpp (which lives on in reduced form, absent America). Some bits sound rather familiar. One selling-point for the tpp was that it was a “21st-century trade agreement” complete with high standards for workers’ rights and e-commerce rules. The ipef is also “a 21st-century economic arrangement”, according to Jake Sullivan, America’s national security adviser. The original tpp members accounted for nearly 40% of global gdp, roughly the same share as the current ipef partners (the biggest change is that the new deal swaps out Mexico and Canada for India and South Korea). Most crucially, China is still excluded. The ipef, like the tpp, is an attempt to build a trading structure in Asia that enshrines both America’s economic principles and its economic power—welcomed by many in the region as a counterbalance to China’s heft.