The U.S. intends to initiate a new economic framework for the Indo-Pacific in 2022, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said, as the Biden administration aims to reinvigorate America’s standing in the region.
“We’re likely to launch a more formal process in the beginning of next year which will culminate in a proper economic framework” in Asia, Raimondo said at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore on Wednesday. “I am here in the region beginning the discussions, laying the groundwork.”
When asked whether that would mean an actual agreement, she said: “Yeah, exactly.”
It’s clear that many people in the region want the U.S. to rejoin the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), she said, while adding that “for various reasons that is not going to happen now.”
President Joe Biden has pledged to step up U.S. engagement in Asia after years of ceding influence to China. Yet the administration has also been accused of lacking an economic vision for the region nearly five years after Donald Trump withdrew from an 11-nation Pacific trade deal.
Biden said last month that Washington would start talks with partners in the Indo-Pacific about developing a regional economic framework.
China said in September that it had filed an application to join the CPTPP trade pact, which was signed by 11 countries including Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan and New Zealand in 2018.
“This isn’t about China. This is about developing robust commercial and economic relationships with our partners in the Indo-Pacific where we have had a robust relationship for a long time, but for the past few years,” Raimondo said.
In an earlier appearance on Bloomberg Television, Raimondo called on China to live up to its commitments, including in a trade deal between the two nations.
“China needs to play by the rules, they need to respect our IP, they need to live up to their commitments,” she said. “Right now for example in the so-called Phase 1 deal where the Chinese committed to purchase a certain amount of aircraft and agricultural products, they’re not doing that, they’re not living up to their commitments.”
In Tokyo earlier this week, Raimondo agreed to begin talks on resolving disputes over tariffs imposed on Japanese steel and aluminum under Trump. That came on the heels of a similar deal with European nations.
The two nations also agreed to establish the Japan-U.S. Commercial and Industrial Partnership, aimed at maintaining a free and fair economic order, improving industrial competitiveness, shoring up supply chains and tackling climate change.
The current U.S. administration is focused on creating good jobs at home, but “we are equally focused on restrengthening our relationships with our allies — in Europe, in the Indo-Pacific and around the world,” Raimondo said at the forum. “We’re talking about onshoring but we’re also talking about friendshoring.”
“Take semiconductors — it is a global, complex supply chain,” she said. “That won’t change and that is OK. We don’t think everything can be domestically produced so we want to work with our allies and friendshore.”
However, along with that collaboration, the administration wants to increase the domestic supply of chips, both from American firms and also from foreign companies, she said.
A chip shortage has hobbled the tech and auto industries, cost companies billions in lost revenue and forced plants to furlough workers. The Biden administration is scrambling to address constraints, but it’s also trying to bring production of vital components back to the U.S.
One way the U.S. is trying to ameliorate that shortage was to request supply chain information from top chipmakers. Raimondo reiterated that the data request from her department is voluntary and the U.S. will keep information it received “strictly and completely confidential.”
“Increasing transparency will reduce the bottlenecks,” she said in an earlier appearance on Bloomberg Television. However, Raimondo did not comment on whether the U.S. is concerned that foreign governments may adopt similar measures and request information from American companies.
Major chipmakers including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Samsung Electronics Co., and Intel Corp. have complied with the request, as have chip users including Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.
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