By Trevor Hunnicutt and Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) – President Joe Biden launches his plan for U.S. economic engagement in Asia on Monday, leaving the 13 founding countries to determine how to implement their agreements and whether China could ever join.

Biden unveils the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) in Tokyo during his first posting trip to Asia.

The White House says the deal offers no tariff relief or market access to countries that join, but offers a way to sort out key issues from climate change to supply chain resilience and digital trade.

And countering what he sees as Washington’s biggest competitor overseas, China, is key to Biden’s approach. Washington has lacked an economic pillar to its Indo-Pacific engagement since former President Donald Trump quit a multinational trans-Pacific trade deal, leaving room for China to expand its influence.

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“The launch,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, “marks an important turning point in restoring U.S. economic leadership in the region and presents Indo-Pacific countries with an alternative approach to China. on these critical issues.

Biden wants the deal to raise environmental, labor and other standards across Asia. But the actual terms of any deal will have to be negotiated by the first countries to join the talks: Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the United States. .

These countries will work together to negotiate what standards they wish to meet, how they will be enforced, whether their national legislatures will need to ratify them and how to consider potential future members, including China, which is not participating, officials told reporters. . .

Also excluded from the initial talks was Taiwan, which wanted to join.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One that Taiwan would not be part of the IPEF launch but that Washington was still seeking to deepen its economic relationship with the self-governing island, which the China claims.

In a later briefing, Sullivan said the process of including new members “will be part of those initial discussions” in the coming weeks.

“On China, generally speaking, what I just said would apply to this case.”

The IPEF is an attempt to salvage some of the benefits of participating in a larger trade deal like the one Trump left, which is now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, then known as the name of TPP, but without the American national agreement. political opposition to a deal that some say would cost jobs.

“The TPP, as envisioned, was ultimately something quite fragile,” said U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai. “The biggest problem was that we didn’t have the support at home to push it through.”

Beijing seemed to take a dim view of the IPEF project.

China welcomes initiatives conducive to strengthening regional cooperation but “opposes attempts to create division and confrontation”, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a statement. “Asia-Pacific should become a hotbed of peaceful development, not an arena of geopolitical gladiators.”

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Elaine Lies; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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