The economic framework has a similar purpose. Since then, President Donald Trump has withdrawn the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership – the massive trade deal negotiated under the Obama presidency – the US has had no clear plan to engage this region economically.
Meanwhile, China has signed several trade deals with its neighbors and has sought to exert its economic influence globally through the Belt and Road Initiative.
The plan Biden is announcing Monday is not a trade deal in the traditional sense. It includes one “pillar” related to trade, but also covers other areas, such as making supply chains more resilient, promoting clean energy and fighting corruption.
By revealing the framework, Biden appears to be acknowledging that he has little intention of rejoining TPP, which is still unpopular with US lawmakers expected to ratify the deal. Instead, he hopes to create an economic atmosphere that can compete with China.
That requires convincing other countries to join — not just staunch partners like Japan and South Korea, but smaller countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, that aren’t as closely tied to the United States.
The plan’s early opponents have suggested it has no incentives — such as lowering rates — in exchange for participating. Biden’s aides suggest that there are other ways to facilitate greater trade and market access, and that the framework itself provides an attractive opportunity for participating countries to work closely with the United States. And if anything, Biden’s announcement on Monday merely reflects the beginning of the plan-writing process.
China has already 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 Adviser Jake Sullivan said the criticism was expected.
“It is no surprise to me that China is concerned about the number of countries, the diversity of countries that have shown interest in and enthusiasm for IPEF,” he said. “It’s normal for them to find ways to ask questions.”