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China has promised to maintain regional supply chain security. Photo: AFP

China goes on Asia-Pacific trade offensive in wake of US’ IPEF push

  • Foreign minister highlights Beijing’s practical efforts to promote long-term development in the region
  • China will continue to expand its high level of openness, Wang Yi tells UN meeting
China has underlined its commitment to economic development in the Asia-Pacific in an indirect response to the US’ launch of a 13-nation regional agreement.

“China will continue to make greater contributions to the long-term stability and sustainable development of the Asia-Pacific region through practical action,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the annual session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific on Monday.

Wang’s comments came hard on the heels of the launch in Japan of US President Joe Biden’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), an effort to address supply-chain resilience, clean energy, infrastructure and digital trade.

Wang did not refer directly to the initiative but promised to maintain regional supply chain security, saying China was determined to “firmly” promote economic development in the Asia-Pacific.

“China will continue to expand its high level of openness, promote the quality construction of the Belt and Road Initiative, promote interconnection and connectivity in the Asia-Pacific region, and safeguard the security and stability of the regional industrial supply chain,” he said.


Joe Biden arrives in South Korea for a tour of Asia to strengthen US ties in the Indo-Pacific

Joe Biden arrives in South Korea for a tour of Asia to strengthen US ties in the Indo-Pacific

In addition to the United States, 12 countries have signed up for the IPEF: South Korea, Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The pact is Biden’s latest attempt to boost engagement in the region in the aftermath of the previous US administration’s withdrawal – and effective scuppering of – the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement in 2017.

But the White House has been clear that the IPEF is not a traditional trade agreement that would expand access to the US market.

Against that backdrop, Wang told the UN meeting that China had been very willing to implement regional trade pacts, such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, the remnant of the TPP.

Wang also said China sought to join Digital Economy Partnership Agreement.

He added that China would organise high-level meetings on global development, increase funding support, promote a new project bank, and implement global development initiatives put forward by President Xi Jinping.

“China will work … to implement the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement, the Trans-Asian Railway Network and other major projects, and support [the UN commission] to play a greater role in promoting regional development,” Wang said.

Wang also hit out at the US over its Indo-Pacific strategy, saying China absolutely rejected any military blocs and camp confrontations in the Asia-Pacific amid the US efforts to build up security alliances to contain China’s growing power.

He proposed “actively promoting political solutions” to issues such as Afghanistan, the Iranian nuclear issue and the Korean peninsula, and promised to expedite the progress of its talks with Asean countries on their disputes in the South China Sea to reach a long-waited agreement on a code of conduct for the waters.