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Economic framework for prosperity advances objectives that are not in Asia-Pacific's interests: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-09-08 21:05

US President Joe Biden. [Photo/Agencies]

With ministers from 14 countries participating in the "Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity" in Los Angeles for their first in-person meeting, the United States-proposed mechanism may finally take a visible step off the drawing board.

Little has been said or heard from the two previous ministerial meetings held virtually since US President Joe Biden launched the framework during his May visit to Japan. But given its purpose the IPEF may remain on the drawing board even after the Los Angeles meeting.

The Los Angeles ministerial gathering is reportedly aimed at a structure capable of securing chains of critical supplies such as chips and rare earths, "even in times of natural disasters and other contingencies", and enhancing cooperation on new and renewable energy.

But what US President Joe Biden envisioned in his May announcement went far beyond such goals. It does not require much effort to translate into real-world terms what he meant when he said on launching the framework that the US invited "the participation of Indo-Pacific partners that share our goals, interests, and ambitions for the region".

It is therefore hard to tell how far the meeting can go in pushing those goals, interests and ambitions for the region, since those of the US are not in the best interests of the other participants.

The White House itself appears to have no idea how the framework will achieve its aims. Or people wouldn't have been asking whether it is the Biden administration's foreign policy, trade policy, or something else. Even the US business community and members of Congress have complained about being kept in the dark about the IPEF.

But one thing is clear; the IPEF has not been created as a usual trade agreement. Since its inception, it has been flying the colors of ideological and geopolitical confrontation. Since the very beginning, when it was first announced, it was obviously intended to be confrontational and exclusive.

It has been conceived as a geopolitical expediency to cope with what in Washington politicians' eyes is an increasingly prominent threat from China. The goal is to propagate US rules and values in the region and offset Chinese "dominance".

While the promise of trade-facilitating potential may appeal to countries, it may be another thing when it comes to the US' attempt to exclude China. After all, Beijing is the one tirelessly promoting economic and trade integration in the region, which is multilateral, inclusive and all-beneficial.

The participating countries' economies account for 40 percent of the global total. But this does not take into account the deep and close interdependence between the Chinese and other economies in the region.

No commercially meaningful commitment can afford to ignore such reality.

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