U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen revealed on Monday that negotiations pertaining to the trade section of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) will necessitate additional work, marking a setback for the Biden administration's aspirations of announcing substantial progress this week.
Addressing a news conference, Yellen acknowledged "very substantial progress" across three of the four key areas being deliberated upon by the 14 IPEF member countries. However, she pointed out that "remaining issues" persist within the domain of trade. The IPEF serves as a pivotal platform for multilateral discussions aimed at forging agreements spanning various domains, including trade. It stands as a cornerstone of the Biden administration's endeavors to strengthen economic ties with Asian nations and counter China's escalating influence in the Pacific region.
While Secretary Yellen underscored "significant progress" within the trade pillar, she indicated that there are aspects requiring further attention and refinement.
Yellen's comments concerning the trade aspect align with insights from individuals familiar with the negotiations, who disclosed to Reuters that challenges have arisen in discussions related to enhancing labor and environmental standards and mechanisms for ensuring compliance. Resistance from certain member countries has been a notable hurdle.
The Biden administration had initially aspired to unveil some trade-related achievements this week, coinciding with the gathering of leaders from Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries in San Francisco.
President Joe Biden is keen to emphasize the meaningful outcomes generated by the IPEF, primarily comprising APEC member states. This move is in line with the administration's efforts to present an alternative led by the United States, offering Asia a viable option for deepening economic connections, distinct from China.
As negotiations continue, the focus remains on resolving outstanding issues within the trade pillar to advance economic collaboration in the Indo-Pacific region effectively.