Indo-Pacific nations in the US-led IPEF group agree on a supply chain strategy

This initiative brings together 14 countries.

Indo-Pacific nations in the US-led IPEF group agree on a supply chain strategy
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo address the media during the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework meeting in Detroit, Michigan U.S. May 27, 2023. Reuters/Rebecca Cook

The backstory: In case you missed this, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) is like a new Asia-Pacific (APAC) club that US President Joe Biden brought to the scene last year. So, what's the buzz all about? Well, the US basically said, "Enough of playing second fiddle to China in the region" So it’s essentially Uncle Sam's effort to team up with other APAC countries and push back against China's growing influence in the area.

This initiative brings together 14 countries, including heavyweights like Japan, India and South Korea and the US, to strengthen economic ties and tackle challenges in the region together. Together, these countries have an economic output worth a massive US$38 trillion.

More recently: So, how does the IPEF work, you ask? Picture it as a framework with four main pillars – strong supply chains, a clean economy (fighting climate change and going renewable), a fair economy (taking on taxation and corruption), and, of course, fostering trade.

The initiative has been a pretty big deal for the US because it's the biggest economic move in the region since Trump backed out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) back in 2017. The TPP didn't disappear completely with that move, though. Instead, it got a makeover and is now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Basically, both the TPP and CPTPP are trade agreements that help countries in the Trans-Pacific region work together and strengthen their economic ties. Then, there’s one more regional coalition led by China in the area, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Some of the member countries are involved in more than one of these groups at the same time.

The development: There's been some major headway in the Indo-Pacific trade talks over the weekend. All 14 countries have agreed to work together on their supply chains. This was announced by Gina Raimondo, the US Commerce Secretary, and Katherine Tai, the US Trade Representative, during a meeting of ministers from the IPEF.

This supply chain agreement involves the member countries creating a network to help them stay in touch during emergencies and sort out any problems in the supply chain that might pop up. On top of that, they're putting together an advisory board to make sure labor rights are protected and all this will be headed off by a council that will coordinate in different areas. The US is aiming to finalize the entire framework by November, just in time for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit happening in San Francisco.

Key comments:

"I can tell you I would have loved to have had that Crisis Response Network during COVID. It absolutely would have helped us secure American jobs and keep supply chains moving," said US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo at a press conference in Detroit.

"I don't have a crystal ball ... but it is absolutely in the spirit of the IPEF to be able to demonstrate that we can deliver real outcomes as we go, and not have to wait several years to realize an outcome," said US Trade Representative Katherine Tai at a Tokyo news conference last month. "I'm very optimistic that you will see results soon and maybe even over the course of this year."

“The United States is deeply invested in the Indo-Pacific,” said President Joe Biden last year at an event in Tokyo launching the IPEF partnership. “We’re committed for the long haul.”

“This framework is intended to advance resilience, sustainability, inclusiveness, economic growth, fairness, and competitiveness for our economies,” said the IPEF countries in a joint statement last year. “Through this initiative, we aim to contribute to cooperation, stability, prosperity, development, and peace within the region.”