Is this time different? IPEF and American trade leadership in the Indo-Pacific

Indo-Pacific Insight Series, Volume 22 by Dr Yuma Osaki

Key Messages:

1. While most assessments of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) have been pessimistic, progress steadily continues both within the framework and via bilateral channels.

2. Whatever comes from the negotiations, IPEF’s strategic and geo-economic characteristics as a China-proof regional institution body already make it a legacy of the Biden administration.

3. US domestic opposition to free trade arrangements means a ‘USEXIT’ from IPEF is still possible, especially under a potential Trump administration. In that worst case scenario, the Indo-Pacific region will question further American credibility as a reliable economic partner and judge the strategic meaning and relevance of IPEF without the United States in years to come.

4. But even without the US, IPEF could still provide an innovative template for existing and future trade arrangements; members could potentially seek to incorporate and/or transplant some innovative provisions from IPEF as much as possible, for example on a ‘Supply Chain Chapter’ and so forth.

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