TOKYO (Kyodo) — Prime Minister Fumio Kishida plans to announce during President Joe Biden’s visit to Japan that Tokyo will join a U.S.-led Indo-Pacific economic initiative to counter a growing China. affirmed, Japanese government officials said on Wednesday.
Japan’s potential participation in the Indo-Pacific economic framework, however, will not change Tokyo’s stance of asking for Washington’s return to a Pacific Free Trade Pact which China, along with Taiwan, is now considering joining, the official said. Japanese government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno.
As a member of both frameworks, Japan is likely to struggle to join the US push for IPEF while persuading the longtime ally to return to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact that Washington s was abruptly withdrawn in 2017 under the then regime. President Donald Trump.
“We welcome IPEF as an embodiment of active U.S. engagement in the Indo-Pacific region and therefore we view our participation positively,” Matsuno, chief cabinet secretary, told a news conference. regular.
Promoted by Biden, the IPEF is designed to create an economic sphere in a region increasingly challenged by China’s clout, with Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the Philippines among potential members.
South Korea’s presidential office said Wednesday that Seoul is ready to participate and play a leading role.
Although the details of the framework remain vague, the IPEF will likely focus on areas such as trade, resilient supply chains and investment in decarbonization.
But the lack of increased market access, or lower tariffs, is seen as a bottleneck to encouraging more Southeast Asian countries hoping to boost exports to join the initiative.
Even within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which has 10 members, some are much closer to China than to the United States or Japan.
The IPEF launch will be announced during Biden’s planned visit to Japan starting on Sunday, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Tuesday. Biden will meet Kishida and other members of the “Quad” group which also includes Australia and India on his trip.
The prospect of China expanding its influence in the region without the United States has been a source of concern for Japan, pushing Tokyo to promote multilateral trade deals even when the United States has shunned them under the Trump administration.
As longtime allies, Japan and the United States share concerns about China’s assertiveness in the region and have worked together to achieve a “free and open” Indo-Pacific. This vision is also shared by the Quad group.
“We will continue to call on the United States to return to the TPP at the summit and at other levels,” Matsuno said, referring to the 11-member regional pact, officially known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Accord for the transpacific partnership.
“We will also promote cooperation through IPEF and work with the United States to build a desirable economic order in the region,” he said.
The region has several free trade agreements. In January, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement entered into force, with its members including China, South Korea, Japan and ASEAN.