IPEF Launch Suggests Departure From TPP But Also Raises Red Flags

For Immediate Release: May 23, 2022
Contact: Matt Groch, mgroch@citizen.org +1 (603) 560-0847

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During President Biden’s trip to Japan today, the White House announced the launch of Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) talks between the United States, Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Other countries may join later. Thus far, there have been few details about IPEF, though there appear to be conflicting goals both inside and outside the administration.

Melinda St. Louis, Global Trade Watch Director at Public Citizen issued the following statement:

“Now that IPEF has officially launched, it’s time to learn the details. How will President Biden guarantee a transparent process with meaningful participation and oversight from the public and Congress to ensure that this exercise does not turn into another corporate-dominated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)? Will strong labor and environmental standards be at IPEF’s core? Or will countries commit to extreme Big Tech-friendly digital trade terms at the expense of workers’ rights and consumer privacy?

“While we are encouraged by the comments by Ambassador Katherine Tai and Jake Sullivan1 that the administration has learned the lessons from the TPP and intends for IPEF to depart from the past approach of traditional free trade agreements, we will need to watch this process closely, as the participating countries announced today give significant reason for concern. Singapore and Australia have inked the most extreme version of damaging “digital trade” rules that favor Big Tech power over consumer privacy and rights. A number of the countries, including Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, have ongoing and pervasive labor rights abuses that would need to be thoroughly addressed if the Biden administration is serious about pursuing “worker-centric” trade policy.

“Public Citizen is eager to see and help design the “worker-centric” trade policy needed to promote equality, sustainability, and prosperity in the global economy, alongside civil society partners in the countries announced today.”

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  1. USTR Ambassador Katherine Tai: “The four-pillar structure is designed to be less fragile than the traditional architecture of free trade agreements… [The U.S.’ withdrawal from TPP proved that the agreement] as it was envisioned ultimately was something that was quite fragile and that the United States was not able to deliver on… And that informs very much our thinking about bringing the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework as it’s designed here to the region, which is that trade is an important component of this but not the only component so that we are bringing in more robust and comprehensive approach to our partners in this region.”

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan: “We believe that we need a new model that we can move on quickly to in fact take these challenges head-on… The fact that this is not a traditional free trade agreement is a feature of IPEF, not a bug.”

 

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