IPEF ministers hold first face-to-face talks

Trade ministers from around the Indo-Pacific have started their first face-to-face meetings as part of a new economic initiative led by the United States.

US President Joe Biden pushed hard for this forum, which is called the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, or IPEF.

Biden says the aim is to create new rules for trade and investment among member nations.

Ministers from 14 nations, including Japan and the United States, are holding their first in-person talks on Thursday under a new initiative for the Indo-Pacific.

The United States proposed the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity amid China's growing influence in the region.

During the two-day talks in Los Angeles, the member nations are expected to announce the official start of their negotiations. The participating countries also include India and Australia.

They aim to compile a statement on the framework's four pillars: trade, supply-chain stability, clean energy, and tax and anti-corruption measures.

However, not all member nations attending the talks will join the discussions for each pillar. This is due to the concern that countries with strong ties to China could worsen their relationship with Beijing, depending on their degree of involvement.

In addition, the US also faces the dilemma that if it pays too much attention to the participating countries, then it risks diluting the ultimate purpose of the agreement to pressure China.

This was also the original aim of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

The focus of this two-day meeting will be on how many countries will declare the start of their negotiations and which discussions they will join.

The United States had led the way with the TPP, but abruptly left the trade initiative in 2017.

Many Asian countries perceived this as a withdrawal from involvement in the region.

The current talks may be viewed as a clean slate. But it is yet to be determined whether this new framework can replace the TPP and be as effective as the United States envisions.