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Mihir Sharma

The US Can’t Beat China If It’s Scared of Trade

There’s a reason the Biden administration’s flagship economic proposal for the Indo-Pacific has been met with disappointment and even derision in the region. 

Good atmospherics but not much else. 

Good atmospherics but not much else. 

Photographer: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Joe Biden and his administration presumably hoped that the White House’s latest attempt to woo Asia, its Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, would be seen as a dramatic return for the United States to a region where allies have felt largely neglected since 2016. In this part of the world, however, the sprawling and unwieldy framework has been met at best with polite silence — and, behind closed doors, with disappointment and even derision.

The White House stressed that it had gotten a dozen other countries to sign up, “representing 40% of world GDP,” and that the framework would “deepen US economic engagement in the region” along four pillars: trade, supply chains, the green transition and anti-corruption measures. These are perfectly reasonable priorities. But, for each of them, IPEF brings little concrete to the table. Even now, signatories still have to decide what will be negotiated within each pillar and which ones they want to participate in.