Biden Launches Indo-Pacific Trade Deal 05/23 06:08
TOKYO (AP) -- President Joe Biden launched a new trade deal with 12
Indo-Pacific nations Monday aimed at strengthening their economies as he warned
Americans worried about high inflation that it is "going to be a haul" before
they feel relief. The president said he does not believe an economic recession
is inevitable in the U.S.
Biden, speaking at a news conference after holding talks with Japan's Prime
Minister Fumio Kishida, acknowledged the U.S. economy has "problems" but said
they were "less consequential than the rest of the world has."
He added: "This is going to be a haul. This is going to take some time." In
answer to a question, he rejected the idea a recession in the U.S. is
His comments came just before Biden's launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic
Framework. His administration says the trade deal is designed to signal U.S.
dedication to the contested economic sphere and to address the need for
stability in commerce after disruptions caused by the pandemic and Russia's
invasion of Ukraine.
Nations joining the U.S. in the pact are: Australia, Brunei, India,
Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines,
Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Along with the United States, they represent
40% of world GDP.
The countries said in a joint statement that the pact will help them
collectively "prepare our economies for the future" after the fallout from the
pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
Biden and Kishida were joined for the launch event by Indian Prime Minister
Narendra Modi, while representatives from the other countries appeared by
video. Modi was in Tokyo for Tuesday's meeting of the Quad, a four-country
security group that also includes the U.S., Japan and Australia.
The White House said the framework will help the United States and Asian
economies work more closely on issues including supply chains, digital trade,
clean energy, worker protections and anticorruption efforts. The details still
need to be negotiated among the member countries, making it difficult for the
administration to say how this agreement would fulfill the promise of helping
U.S. workers and businesses while also meeting global needs.
Critics say the framework has gaping shortcomings. It doesn't offer
incentives to prospective partners by lowering tariffs or provide signatories
with greater access to U.S. markets. Those limitations may not make the U.S.
framework an attractive alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which
moved forward without the U.S. after former President Donald Trump pulled out.
China, the largest trading partner for many in the region, is also seeking to
"I think a lot of partners are going to look at that list and say: 'That's a
good list of issues. I'm happy to be involved,'" said Matthew Goodman, a former
director for international economics on the National Security Council during
President Barack Obama's administration. But he said they also may ask, "Are we
going to get any tangible benefits out of participating in this framework?"
Kishida hosted a formal state welcome for Biden at Akasaka Palace, including
a white-clad military honor guard and band in the front plaza. Reviewing the
assembled troops, Biden placed his hand over his heart as he passed the
American flag and bowed slightly as he passed the Japanese standard.
The Japanese premier took office last fall and is looking to strengthen ties
with the U.S. and build a personal relationship with Biden. The two leaders
ended their day with dinner at Kochuan, an iconic Tokyo restaurant on the
grounds of a Japanese garden.
Kishida said at their meeting that he was "absolutely delighted" to welcome
Biden to Tokyo on the first Asia trip of his presidency. Along with Biden, he
drove a tough line against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, saying the
aggression "undermines the foundation of global order."
Biden, who is in the midst of a five-day visit to South Korea and Japan,
called the U.S.-Japanese alliance a "cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the
Indo-Pacific" and thanked Japan for its "strong leadership" in standing up to
Kishida welcomed the new Biden trade pact but said he still hoped the
president would reconsider the United States' position and return it to the
Trans-Pacific pact that Trump withdrew from.
"We think it's desirable for the United States to return to the TPP," he
The new pact comes at a moment when the administration believes it has the
edge in its competition with Beijing. Bloomberg Economics published a report
last week projecting U.S. GDP growth at about 2.8% in 2022 compared to 2% for
China, which has been trying to contain the coronavirus through strict
lockdowns while also dealing with a property bust. The slowdown has undermined
assumptions that China would automatically supplant the U.S. as the world's
"The fact that the United States will grow faster than China this year, for
the first time since 1976, is a quite striking example of how countries in this
region should be looking at the question of trends and trajectories," said
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
The two leaders also met with families of Japanese citizens abducted by
North Korea decades ago. The White House said Biden "expressed his deepest
condolences for their suffering, and called on North Korea to right this
historic wrong and provide a full accounting of the 12 Japanese nationals who
The launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, also known as IPEF, has
been billed by the White House as one of the bigger moments of Biden's Asia
trip and of his ongoing effort to bolster ties with Pacific allies. Through it
all, administration officials have kept a close eye on China's growing economic
and military might in the region.
In September the U.S. announced a new partnership with Australia and Britain
called AUKUS that is aimed and deepening security, diplomatic and defense
cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
The U.S. president has also devoted great attention to the informal alliance
known as the Quad, formed during the response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami
that killed some 230,000 people. Biden and fellow leaders from the alliance are
set to gather Tuesday in Tokyo for their second in-person meeting in less than
And earlier this month, Biden gathered representatives from the Association
of Southeast Asian Nations in Washington for a summit.
Taiwan -- which had sought membership in the IPEF framework-- isn't among
the governments that will be included. Participation of the self-ruled island
of Taiwan, which China claims as its own, would have irked Beijing.
Sullivan said the U.S. wants to deepen its economic partnership with Taiwan,
including on high technology issues and semiconductor supply on a one-to-one
Biden also issued a stern warning to China over Taiwan, saying the U.S.
would respond militarily if China were to invade the self-ruled island. "That's
the commitment we made," Biden said.
The U.S. recognizes Beijing as the one government of China and doesn't have
diplomatic relations with Taiwan. However, it maintains unofficial contacts
with Taiwan, including a de facto embassy in Taipei, the capital, and supplies
military equipment to the island for its defense.
Biden's comments drew a sharp response from China, which has claimed Taiwan
to be a rogue province.
A White House official said Biden's comments did not reflect a policy shift.