Joe Biden launches new Indo-Pacific trade initiative

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Joe Biden has launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, a trade deal between the US and 12 other countries.

US president Joe Biden has taken a significant step in forming closer economic ties with Asian nations by launching the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF).

The trade deal signals closer cooperation between 13 countries in the Pacific region: the US, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Brunei.

China is not currently included in the framework, which is being viewed by some as a response by the Biden administration to the Asian nation's increasing economic power and influence.

Making his first visit to Asia as US president, Mr Biden met with Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo before announcing the details of IPEF.

The deal will not provide any tariff relief to the countries involved, but it will enable closer cooperation on issues such as climate change, supply chain resilience and digital trade.

One of the key decisions made by Mr Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, during his time in office was to withdraw the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a more traditional trade deal that reduced tariffs to allow easier market access.

According to US trade representative Katherine Tai, the "biggest problem" with TPP was that it didn't have enough support in Congress, partly owing to fears that it could pose a threat to local jobs.

She said IPEF is part of a "broad strategy to deepen our ties in the region and link major and emerging economies to tackle 21st century challenges".

Speaking in the Japanese capital, Mr Biden said the future of the global economy will be "largely written in the Indo-Pacific".

"We're writing the new rules for the 21st century economy that are going to help all of our countries' economies grow faster and fairer," he added. "We'll do that by taking on some of the most acute challenges that drag down growth and by maximizing the potential of our strongest growth engines."

There have been questions asked about the full extent of the deal, with countries including Japan and Indonesia reportedly querying the lack of access to the US market.

China's response to the IPEF announcement suggested it disapproved of the deal. Foreign minister Wang Yi said the country opposed efforts to "create division and confrontation", and wanted to see the Asia-Pacific become "a high ground for peaceful development, not a geopolitical gladiatorial arena".