Japan hails new US economic initiative in Indo-Pacific | National Policy

By MARI YAMAGUCHI – Associated Press

TOKYO (AP) — Japan hails a new U.S. economic initiative for the Indo-Pacific that President Joe Biden is expected to roll out during a visit to Tokyo next week, as it demonstrates U.S. commitment to an order regional economy that is not just about market access, an official said on Friday.

Biden is proposing the New Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, or IPEF, as an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership that the United States abandoned in 2017 under former President Donald Trump. Japan played a key role in bringing together the other 11 members of this pact, now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

While details of the new initiative are yet to be discussed in Tokyo, Japan has already expressed support and said it is considering joining.

Noriyuki Shikata, Cabinet Secretary for Public Affairs, said IPEF should focus more on supply chains and economic security than traditional trade agreement issues such as market access and tariffs.

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“I understand that IPEF and TPP are different,” Shikata told a news conference in Tokyo.

“Japan still wants to see the US back to TPP, and the reason we say that is because TPP and IPEF are different,” he said. “We hope this IPEF will lead to … more proactive engagement by the United States in the Indo-Pacific economic order.”

The US government has tried to engage more with countries in the region. The framework, which was only announced on Tuesday, is still in its early stages and additional details are unclear.

Shikata said it was unclear whether the IPEF would be discussed at the Quad Summit, a four-nation regional security framework that Tokyo hosts on Tuesday, when Australian and Indian leaders join Japan and the United States.

South Korea, led by new President Yoon Suk Yeol, more willing to forge closer ties with Tokyo and Washington, is also seen as interested in joining the Quad.

Asked about this possibility, Shikata said, “The Quad means four countries and we have no intention of changing that name. So, at this time, we are focusing on promoting practical cooperation between the four countries.”

The four Quad countries share their concerns about China’s growing assertiveness in the region and its increasingly capable armed forces, and stress the importance of a “free and open” Indo-Pacific to strengthen a free, democratic and rule-based order in the region.

China sees the grouping as part of a US-led push to hamper its economic and political rise. On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi criticized what he said were negative moves by Washington and Tokyo against Beijing during a video call with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi on Wednesday.

Shikata said it was not an anti-country grouping.

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