The key question surrounding the start of the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity has long been which countries will join which of the four pillars – a question expected to be answered later this week when ministers from the 14 nations gather in Los Angeles.
Ahead of the Sept. 8-9 ministerial, researchers at The Asia Group have created a graph, based on public comments from IPEF partners and others, showing which countries are likely to sign up for which pillar. The chart shows likely members, possible members and undecided members for each.
The Asia Group is a consulting firm that serves companies looking to grow in Asia. It was founded in 2013 by Kurt Campbell, who now serves as deputy assistant to the president and coordinator for the Indo-Pacific.
Charles Dunst, the deputy director of research and analytics at The Asia Group who helped put the chart together, said the advisory firm’s “research and analytics team created the graphic to help clarify potential IPEF pillar participation ahead of the September 8-9 ministerial meeting – at which members are expected to confirm such participation.”
“We've analyzed public statements and engaged stakeholders across the Indo-Pacific to offer our best predictions ahead of next week's meeting,” he said in an email to Inside U.S. Trade late last week.
The IPEF’s four pillars include trade, decarbonization and infrastructure, supply chains, and tax and anti-corruption. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative leads the trade pillar, while the Commerce Department leads the other three.
Courtesy of The Asia Group
The graphic shows India as an “undecided” candidate for the trade pillar, which accords with analysts’ view in May that the country was more likely to focus on the other three pillars.
Vietnam also is labeled as undecided about joining the trade pillar, while Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Fiji are “possible members.” Australia, Brunei, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore are listed as likely trade-pillar participants.
Six countries – Australia, Brunei, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Singapore – are recognized as likely participants in all four pillars, with all 14 IPEF members projected to join the supply chain pillar.
The graph shows the decarbonization and infrastructure pillar has five “possible members” -- India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – with the remaining countries named as likely participants.
Australia, Brunei, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are likely on the tax and anti-corruption pillar, the chart shows, with Malaysia and Fiji listed as “possible members.” On that pillar, India, the Philippines and Indonesia are listed as “undecided.”
Malaysia’s minister of international trade and industry, Mohamed Azmin Ali, tweeted last month that the country had decided to join all four pillars.
Beyond the initial question of which countries join which pillar is another unknown: Which countries might later join IPEF. U.S. officials have said more will be encouraged to join, and more are expected.
Dunst said Bangladesh “certainly seems like a candidate, given its size, economic potential, and interest in balancing economic ties between Beijing and Washington.” In June, the U.S. and Bangladesh held a High-Level Economic Consultation in Washington, DC. At the meeting, State Department officials briefed Bangladesh counterparts on IPEF, and Bangladesh “welcomed additional information on the supply chain resilience and decarbonization pillars of the IPEF,” a State readout said. China has warned Bangladesh about joining IPEF.
Two other countries – Cambodia and Laos – have been identified by analysts as possible participants, but Dunst said the administration “appears more skeptical” about both, “seeing them as economies that could drag down standards. Discussions are ongoing, but neither the Cambodians nor Laotians seem to be expecting an invite.”
The administration also has made a point of reaching out to Pacific island countries, announcing last week that it will host the first-ever U.S.-Pacific Island Country Summit later this month. It has touted the addition of Fiji to IPEF, saying the country – which joined shortly after the formal launch of talks in May – allowed for “full regional diversity” among participants.
“The administration certainly could approach other Pacific Island countries, but Fiji was the obvious first choice – given its size, political stability, and balanced approach to foreign policy,” Dunst said. -- Maydeen Merino (firstname.lastname@example.org)