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Biden’s ‘Stop China’ Trip Also Includes a Non-‘Trade Agreement’

May 23, 2022 (EIRNS)—The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) project that President Biden of the United States announced at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan, Narendra Modi of India, and the new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of Australia, has “signed up” 13 countries altogether. However: It has not been actually written and negotiations for it have not yet begun; it is not a trade agreement; it does not involve lowering any tariffs; it does not envision any joint investment projects. Rather it is “rules,” according to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s explanation: It aims to “set international rules on the digital economy, supply chains, decarbonization.”)

Seven of the ten ASEAN nations are reported in global business media as having “joined.” However, here is coverage in one of them, in the Bangkok Post for May 22, headlined, “Thais Willing To Join Talks.” The article reports: “The government has asked the Foreign Ministry to announce Thailand’s intention to join talks on the U.S.’ newly proposed multilateral trade agreement, known as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).” (The U.S. message that “it is not a trade agreement” seems not to have been gotten here.)

The Post continued:

“Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce Jurin Laksanawisit met for bilateral talks with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on the sidelines of the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade meeting in Bangkok on Friday. Speaking later, Mr. Jurin said the U.S. asked Thailand to support the IPEF, which will be announced in France next month. He said he told Ms. Tai that the cabinet on Tuesday agreed on a statement on the IPEF which expressed the country’s desire to join the talks. According to the statement, the document is not legally binding on Thailand, but it only serves to express the country’s intention to join the talks.”

What is going on is best described, then, by The Hill May 23, as “collective discussions toward future negotiations.”

The core of the IPEF appears to be what’s usually cooked up between the State Department and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: A plan by American corporations to shift investments from China to other Asian countries, while asking their partners to do the same where relevant. India’s The Hindu on May 23 reported: “Briefing the media, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said that the U.S. would seek to attract businesses investing in China away towards IPEF. ‘I would say, especially as businesses are beginning to increasingly look for alternatives to China, the countries in the Indo-Pacific Framework will be more reliable partners for U.S. businesses.’ ” Thus the “rules” to be made for digital (no Huawei); supply chains (try to do without the world’s largest producer and market); and decarbonization (don’t let China build coal-fired power plants).

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