The White House added yet another incident to its stockpile of scams when it launched the so-called "Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF)" on Monday.
During U.S. President Joe Biden's visit to Japan, he said the IPEF will drive Asia "to the top" and "deliver for all people on Earth."
But whatever grand visions he and his administration presented to rope regional countries into this initiative will not paper over Washington's sinister intentions to plot division and isolation, undermine regional stability, and maintain U.S. hegemony.
Washington's pledge to boost the region's "inclusive" growth through the IPEF is a lie. Inclusiveness means all regional countries should be given equal access to opportunities and resources regarding the initiative. But the Washington-designed IPEF has since day one ruled out China, the biggest trading partner of most of the regional countries and an important contributor to regional stability and development.
Washington has meant more than isolating China. The very idea of designing the IPEF is to form another exclusive U.S.-led economic bloc to contain China. A fact sheet by the White House in February described the IPEF as part of a wider push to "restore American leadership" in the region by "meeting urgent challenges" like "competition with China." In a letter sent to Biden last week, 52 U.S. senators urged using the IPEF to boost America's "ability to compete effectively with China."
With a Cold War thinking, a bloc mentality and a hegemonic mindset, Washington has long bridled at China's rapid development and its ever closer relations with other Asian economies. Just as the American Enterprise Institute noted, the United States feels it has fallen behind in the regional trade agenda, leaving a gaping hole in its Asia strategy. The IPEF, therefore, was created as a new weapon to serve Washington's own geopolitical and economic goals to maintain long rule over the region, by forcing regional countries to take sides, luring them to decouple from China, and disrupting the normal regional economic order.
Also, the IPEF, claimed to benefit all, is another version of "America First" that can hardly facilitate economic growth in the region. Just as a Foreign Policy article said, the IPEF is "an all-pain, no-gain economic deal."
Removing tariff barriers and pledging more investments, hard commitments that Washington could offer to bring real benefits to many Asian countries, never appeared in the IPEF. Instead, through a tangle of evasion and bleakest reiteration, Washington attempted to distract regional countries from its unwillingness to serve their interests, and to brainwash them with blurry promises so that it can slam the present regional economic cooperation architecture, mar an increasingly deepening regional integration, and secure absolute economic dominance in the region.
Moreover, Washington has shown the slightest sincerity and respect towards regional countries it repeatedly called "partners." When the IPEF was first brought up last year, Washington made it clear that it will only invite regional countries that back up America's values and rules. Based on that, as media reports revealed, it has thrown a number of Southeast Asian countries out of the invitation list, such as Myanmar, Cambodia, Brunei and Laos.
The IPEF's proclaimed standards in the fields of digital economy, labor, market supervision, environmental protection and anti-corruption are much higher than those set by domestic laws in some regional countries and even by international conventions. If implemented, the initiative will force these participating countries to abide by the rules unilaterally set by Washington, and change their domestic economic policies to serve U.S. interests only.
The inequality of the initiative is also evident in its approval process. While Washington chose to base the IPEF on a presidential executive order and skip congressional approval, it asked other participating countries to complete all legal procedures for accession. In this way, Washington can walk away from its commitments whenever it wants to with little consequence. It can even discard the IPEF when a new administration takes office.
Fortunately, the IPEF will just be another futile attempt by Washington to turn regional countries into pawns in its scheme to isolate China and perpetuate hegemony. Over the past decades, the region has witnessed achievements and momentum of peaceful and sound development created by concerted efforts of regional countries. The 6.3-percent growth in Asia in 2021 has not come easily amid the COVID-19 pandemic, giving credit to the solidarity of regional countries and the hard work of the people.
Fully embracing globalization and free trade, the region has also established win-win cooperation platforms and enjoyed better liberalization and facilitation of regional trade and investment. As a matter of fact, the interests of regional countries are highly intertwined that they cannot be separated without facing massive losses.
Well aware of that, many sober minds in the region have refused to take Washington's dangling carrot. A recent report by the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies showed some Asian countries have already expressed concerns that the IPEF is "primarily a political endeavor meant to counter China, rather than a sincere and thoughtful economic policy integration initiative."
A good economic initiative is welcomed by all as it puts development first, pursues mutual benefit, and is open, inclusive and action-oriented. A bad one is doomed to fail as it creates economic decoupling, technological blockade and industrial disruption, and aggravates the supply-chain crisis. What the IPEF is could not be any clearer.