Fourteen member states of a US-led Indo-Pacific Economic Initiative agreed on Thursday to strengthen regional supply chains, moving closer to the start of formal negotiations under the initiative, according to Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. Trade.
Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters after the first day of a two-day ministerial meeting on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework in Los Angeles that IPEF members shared their understanding of the importance of ensuring the resilience of the supply chain after disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I think we are just one step away from getting a big result,” said Nishimura, minister of economy, trade and industry. “We will continue the discussions regularly until the start of the (official) negotiations.”
Following IPEF’s first in-person ministerial meeting, member states are expected to declare the launch of formal negotiations on the framework involving four-pillar fair trade, supply chain resilience, clean energy as well as decarbonization and infrastructure, as well as good taxation and the fight against corruption.
The ministers plan to issue a post-meeting statement containing a cooperation agreement for the resumption of supply chains of vital products, such as semiconductors and critical minerals, in the event of a disaster or other contingency. especially as China asserts claims to the East and South China Seas as well as Taiwan’s potential hotspots in the Indo-Pacific.
Ministers from countries such as Japan, the United States, Australia and India, which together account for 40% of the world’s gross domestic product, focused on setting high standards in new areas such as digital economy, cross-border data flows and data localization, as well as labor issues, in addition to the supply chain issue.
Unlike a conventional trade deal, the IPEF does not involve tariff cuts or other trade liberalization measures, leading critics to question the initiative’s value to participating countries.
As part of a new IPEF initiative, the United States on Thursday announced the launch of a digital skills education and training program targeting women and girls in response to skepticism about whether IPEF, without market access and tariff liberalisation, can deliver tangible benefits.
The Commerce Department and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said 14 U.S. companies such as Apple Inc. and Google LLC will provide access to digital skills training and education to some 7 million women and girls in emerging and other economies by 2032.
“We are committed to delivering tangible, concrete benefits to partner countries participating in IPEF,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a press release.
The program will include training for girls in areas such as cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, and will support digital literacy and entrepreneurship training for rural girls and women.
“As we continue to work together to build a more inclusive and sustainable economic recovery, and as we discuss innovative ways of doing trade under IPEF, we must prioritize lifelong learning. life for our women,” said U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai.
According to the Department of Commerce, the first countries participating in the “IPEF Upskilling Initiative” are Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
Fiji’s Minister of Commerce, Faiyaz Koya, hailed the support of the US public-private effort for sustainable and inclusive economic growth in the region.
“The contribution of this initiative has the potential to be invaluable indeed. And the impact will be felt today and in the decades to come,” he said at the launch event for the upskilling initiative, which was open to the media.
US officials say the IPEF is central to President Joe Biden’s Indo-Pacific strategy.
Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in 2017, leaving China, the world’s second-largest economy, to expand its influence in the fast-growing region.
In a show of American economic commitment, Biden announced the creation of the IPEF during his trip to Japan in May.
In Los Angeles, IPEF member states are expected to determine which countries will participate in negotiations for each of the four pillars, an outcome to be published in the post-meeting statement.
Trade experts say the flexible approach appears to have lowered barriers to participation for some countries, particularly those in Southeast Asia.
The 14 members of IPEF are Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.