‘Difficult to believe’: Biden’s economy plan a tough sell in Asia

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‘Difficult to believe’: Biden’s economy plan a tough sell in Asia

US president’s arrival in Seoul will mark start of effort to promote new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework in region.

Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden will promote his signature Indo-Pacific Economic Framework on his first trip to Asia since taking office [File: Al Drago/Bloomberg]

By Andrew HaffnerPublished On 20 May 202220 May 2022

Phnom Penh, Cambodia – US President Joe Biden’s arrival in Seoul on Friday marks not only the start of his first visit while in office to South Korea and Japan, but the beginnings of an economic initiative aimed at deepening United States ties across Asia.

Though many of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework’s details have yet to be finalised, the Biden administration has made one point clear – the plan is not a traditional trade agreement that will lower tariffs or otherwise open access to US markets, but a partnership for promoting common economic standards.

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While many of China’s regional neighbours share Washington’s concerns about the burgeoning superpower’s ambitions, the IPEF’s lack of clear trade provisions could make it an uninspiring prospect for potential members, especially in Southeast Asia.

“You can sense the frustration for developing, trade-reliant countries,” Calvin Cheng, a senior analyst of economics, trade and regional integration at Malaysia’s Institute of Strategic and International Studies, told Al Jazeera. “There’s always talk about engaging Asia, the idea, but what exactly is it – and what are the incentives for developing countries to take up standards that are being imposed on them by richer, developed countries?”

Since announcing the IPEF in October, the B

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