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Asia Minute: US talking trade in the Indo-Pacific

Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Japan Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi
Franck Robichon/AP
Pool European Pressphoto Agency
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, left, elbow bumps with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi ahead of their meeting at the Iikura Guest House in Tokyo, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. (Franck Robichon/Pool Photo via AP)

President Biden spent several hours earlier this week in a video meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. There are a series of other U.S. government talks underway this week in the region — although none of them involve China.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo says the U.S. plans to launch a “new economic framework for the Indo-Pacific” next year.

She told reporters in Singapore that she’s “laying the groundwork” for an agreement this week on an Asian trip.

The Commerce Secretary has already stopped in Japan and heads next to Malaysia.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai is also traveling in the region — and began in Japan as well.

After meetings in South Korea that start today, Tai will travel to India next week.

Bilateral issues are part of each stop — from talks in Tokyo about easing tariffs on Japanese steel and aluminum that started under the Trump Administration to discussions in New Delhi about intellectual property rights.

But the multilateral approach is the main focus — what the White House calls strengthening “trade and economic relationships with key allies and partners” in “the Indo-Pacific region.”

What exactly that will look like remains to be seen — but apparently it won’t be the existing 11-member grouping put together in 2018 without the United States.

That’s the awkwardly worded Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership — a group that China is now seeking to join.

The Commerce Secretary says the U.S. has in mind a “coalition of democracies” that among other goals will maintain a “secure supply chain” across the region.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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