Fiji to join Biden’s economic framework aimed at countering China | Business and Economy

Fiji will become the 14th country and the first Pacific island nation to join US President Joe Biden’s signature economic framework, the White House announced on Friday, giving impetus to Washington’s efforts to combat China’s growing influence in the Asia Pacific.

Fiji’s announcement of becoming a member of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) came as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Kiribati as part of an eight-country tour. to the Pacific island nations, where Beijing and Washington are facing each other. affect.

Mr. Wang’s visit comes after China and the Solomon Islands earlier this year signed a security treaty that has caused alarm in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, which fear Beijing wants to establish a foothold. military in the region.

In a statement, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the US and Fiji are united in “our commitment to a free, open, and prosperous region” and that the island nation is important particularly valuable on climate change.

The Fijian government has yet to announce its membership of the IPEF as of Friday afternoon.

Rather than opening up market access like a traditional free trade agreement, the IPEF aims to promote common standards across four broad areas: trade; supply chain; clean energy, decarbonization and infrastructure; and taxation and anti-corruption.

Deborah Elms, president of the Asian Corporate Trade Association, told Al Jazeera: “I would have thought that a good trade and climate change initiative would appeal to most of the Pacific islands.

“Given the dual threats of both unchecked climate change and the resulting disrupted trade patterns, these island states are particularly vulnerable. One of the pillars of IPEF is supposed to solve these problems in some way. So it’s likely that Fiji’s decision to join the IPEF’s clean pillar could be a way to help address the challenges. “

Biden kicked off the IPEF, which includes India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Vietnam, in Tokyo on Monday as part of a tour of Asia aimed at reaffirming US involvement in the region.

While countries in the region welcomed Biden’s engagement efforts, the framework has been criticized for not allowing highly sought-after members to access the US market.

On Thursday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urges the US to return to a far-reaching regional trade agreement it dropped in 2017, considering the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) the “gold standard” for developing deeper economic ties.

Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob earlier this month said the US should “adopt a more active trade and investment agenda” with Southeast Asian countries, which are wary of North Korea’s growing assertiveness. but also dependent on Chinese trade.

Biden has opposed joining the CPTPP, which Washington withdrew from under former US President Donald Trump, amid concerns it could lead to more American jobs being moved abroad.

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