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Biden in Japan: the president unveils his economic plan to counter China in Asia

The announcement is one of the centerpieces of Biden’s visit to the continent, which began last week in South Korea and continues this week in Japan.

Biden is treading a delicate balance in revealing the Indo-Pacific economic framework, which his aides call IPEF. As Asian nations clamor for a way to partner with the United States to reduce their dependence on China, the president is also facing protectionist sentiments at home, where economic pain in the form of higher prices high turned out to be the central issue in the November midterm elections.

Biden said Monday he didn’t believe a recession was inevitable, but acknowledged the pain was real.

“It’s bad,” he said, saying things could have been much worse if he hadn’t taken steps like cultivating foreign investment in the US economy.

Before Biden unveiled the framework in full, he called Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and sat down for bilateral talks with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, discussing security topics.

“The United States remains fully committed to the Japanese, to the defense of Japan, and together we will meet the challenges of today and tomorrow,” Biden said during his first face-to-face meeting with Kishida. formal.

“The purpose of the visit is to increase our cooperation with other nations in the region and to bring tangible benefits to the people of the Indo-Pacific region,” Biden said, thanking Kishida for joining a directed effort. by the United States to punish Russia. for his invasion of Ukraine.

Biden was welcomed to Akasaka Palace with a stately ceremony that included the playing of national anthems and an inspection of ceremonial honor guards. Biden looked up and placed his hand over his heart to play the Star Spangled Banner.

China has loomed over each of Biden’s stops, a mostly unspoken but ever-present factor in his drive to reorient US foreign policy to focus more on Asia. When he meets the leaders of a revitalized ‘Quad’ grouping – the United States, Japan, India and Australia – on Tuesday – it will be with the unspoken intention of countering Beijing’s attempts to expand its influence with his neighbours.

The economic framework has a similar objective. Since President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership — the massive trade deal negotiated under President Obama — the United States has had no set plan to engage this region economically.

Meanwhile, China has struck several trade deals with its neighbors and sought to wield its economic influence globally through the Belt and Road Initiative.

The plan Biden will announce on Monday is not a trade deal in the traditional sense. It includes a “pillar” related to trade, but also integrates other areas such as making supply chains more resilient, promoting clean energy and fighting corruption.

In unveiling the framework, Biden appears to acknowledge that he has little intention of joining the TPP, which remains unpopular among U.S. lawmakers expected to ratify the deal. Instead, he hopes to generate an economic sphere that can compete with China.

This will require convincing other countries to join – not only loyal partners like Japan and South Korea, but also smaller nations, particularly in Southeast Asia, which are not as closely aligned with United States.

Early critics of the plan suggested it lacked incentives – like lower fares – in exchange for joining. Biden aides suggest that there are other ways to further facilitate trade and market access, and that the framework itself offers an attractive opportunity for participating countries to work closely with the United States. And if anything, Biden’s announcement on Monday only reflects the beginning of the plan’s drafting process.

Already, China has reacted harshly to the framework, with a senior envoy calling it a “closed and exclusive clique”.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One as Biden traveled from South Korea to Japan, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said criticism was expected.

“It is no surprise to me that China is concerned about the number of countries, the diversity of countries that have expressed interest and enthusiasm for IPEF,” he said. “It’s natural that they try to find ways to raise questions.”

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