Biden Arrives in Tokyo Seeking to Shore Up Support for Economic Plan

TOYKO — President Biden on Sunday embarked on the second chapter of his diplomatic journey across Asia, which revolved around reassuring allies about the threat posed by North Korea to uniting nations behind his administration’s new economic policy toward the Indo -Pacific.

On a three-day swing in Japan, Biden will meet with a range of leaders — including those from Australia, India and Japan — as he rolls out a new economic agenda five years after the Trump administration pulled the United States out of the far-reaching trade pact known as the Trans-European Union. Pacific Partnership, or TPP

The plan appears to be the substance behind Mr Biden’s pledge to work with allies and assert US influence in the region, while also countering China. While it will be much less invasive than the TPP, Biden’s aides have said the new plan, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, will set standards for the digital economy, clean energy and supply chain resilience.

But the lack of clarity about the region’s economic approach, which Biden has said is a priority on his foreign policy agenda, has sparked skepticism from some allies. The government has still not said how many countries have signed the new cooperation agreement, while Beijing has ramped up criticism of the new policy.

“We expect that in addition to the countries participating in the launch tomorrow, there will be others in the months and years to come,” Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, told reporters on Air Force One on Sunday. “It is an economic scheme aimed at further integrating the Indo-Pacific economies, setting standards and rules, especially in new areas such as the digital economy, and also seeking to ensure secure and resilient supply chains. “

In Tokyo, Mr. Sullivan that Taiwan would not be among the signatories of the new agreement.

Biden will have to convince allies to reject criticism from Beijing and join the plan, even though the administration is not expected to open the US market as part of the deal.

“It will be difficult to convince Asian governments to change rules in ways that could disrupt their political economies without the promise of better access to the US market,” said Aaron Connelly, a research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. in Singapore.

The arrival of Mr. Biden in Tokyo comes after concluding a series of meetings with South Korea’s newly inaugurated President Yoon Suk-yeol. The two leaders discussed a number of economic initiatives, including strategies to combat the semiconductor shortage that has fueled price increases. But the threat from North Korea loomed over the visit promoted by US officials as an attempt to reassure allies that the United States remained focused on countering China.

North Korea was yet to conduct missile tests on Sunday, despite warnings from the Biden administration that it would do so while the president was in the south. When asked whether intelligence indicated on Sunday that the government in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, could still proceed with a test, including a nuclear device, Mr Sullivan said: “Oh, yes. Yes.”

But the government is now focusing on rallying allies behind challenging Beijing. While in Tokyo, Biden will meet with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and Anthony Albanese, Australia’s newly elected Prime Minister, at a Quad summit, a bloc formed over growing concerns on China’s military footprint in Asia and parts of the Indian Ocean. Mr Biden called Mr Albanese, who was elected on Saturday, to congratulate him.

But while traveling in South Korea, Mr. Biden also nodded at the priorities and issues of his domestic policy. He visited a Samsung semiconductor factory to demonstrate his administration’s focus on chip shortages and to push Congress to pass legislation that would ramp up production.

After a private mass in Seoul on Sunday morning, Mr. Biden joined Hyundai’s leadership to celebrate the company’s plan to build a new electric vehicle and battery plant in Savannah, Georgia.

Biden said the facility would result in 8,000 jobs, continuing the government’s strategy of pointing to job growth as Republican lawmakers ramp up attacks over soaring inflation. “These investments are part of a trend by my administration,” Mr Biden said, adding that it would help the White House meet its clean energy commitments. “Production jobs are coming back to America.”

Mr Biden made the investment as a result of the work of his administration and Democratic Senators from Georgia Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

But just days earlier, the same company sent a director to Georgia to sit next to Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, to celebrate the investment. “It will continue to bring wealth and opportunity to the region,” said Mr. Kemp.

SOURCE – www.nytimes.com

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