Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida arrive for the Quartet Leaders Summit in Tokyo on May 24.
Saul Loeb | Afp | Getty Images
TOKYO – Security deals matter, but in Asia money speaks.
Australia, India, Japan and the United States concluded their second four-way summit on Tuesday in Tokyo, following US President Joe Biden’s visit to South Korea at the weekend.
The Quartet and others in Asia have made it clear over the past five days that while things like maritime defense are important, true security must take into account the economic desires and needs of Asian countries.
The Quartet is an informal security alliance of four major democracies that came in response to China’s growing power in the Indo-Pacific region. As CNBC reported before the group’s first leaders summit last SeptemberThe Quartet wants to branch out into areas including technology, trade, the environment, and pandemic response.
The Biden administration has attempted to demonstrate that economic priorities can be addressed within the Quartet, or between countries on an individual basis, or as part of new multilateral arrangements—even though the United States has not gone as far as all of its Asian partners. do you like.
“The focus is now on building interconnected multilateral relationships that operate in the form of a network,” said Jonathan Grady, founding director of forecasting firm The Canary Group. “The players involved are often the same, but we see them involved in many different groups from security to economic issues. There is strength in number.”
New South Korean President Yoon Suk Yul showed Biden nearby Samsung The semiconductor facility, and immediately afterwards explained that in the eyes of South Korea, the concept of security is a broader topic than just the military.
“Mr. President, today we live in an era of economic security, where economics is security and vice versa,” Yun said, translating his remarks.
From a South Korean perspective—and from that of most of Asia—the concept of defense and economic stability are intertwined, said Ali Win, senior analyst at Eurasia Group’s macro global practice.
“President Yun’s statement sums up the painful experiences of the past two and a half years: the coronavirus pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine illustrate the extent to which severe disruptions in the production and distribution of essential medicines, crude oil, and agricultural commodities, among other commodities, are undermining the global economy,” Wayne said. It also emphasizes the need for the United States to enhance its economic competitiveness in the region.
Indeed, economic competitiveness is where the United States faces a strong challenge from China, which has greater trade relations with most Asian countries — including members of the Quartet — than it does with the United States.
In part to try to address this shortfall, the United States and 12 Asian countries on Monday Indo-Pacific Economic Framework announcedor IPEF, is an agreement designed to lay the foundation for rules around the region’s digital economy and supply chains.
IPEF is not a commercial deal, and does not include a security component. Significantly, it does not give any new level of US market access to the developing countries in the group, including Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
In the long run, that could be a problem. Asked by CNBC earlier this month what he wanted most from the IPEF, Argad Rashid, president of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, did not utter the words: “Number one is access to the US market.”
“What we want at the end of the day is … cooperation to develop economic growth and improve trade,” Rasjed said. “What we’re seeing is that there’s more we can do together. That’s a positive sign. But I hope this isn’t just a policy per se, but what is action? That’s more important.”
Biden juggles between trying to increase America’s importance in Asia on the one hand, and trying to avoid angering American voters who – both left and right – hate trade deals.
Official data from Washington indicates this. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday that the IPEF is “part of President Biden’s commitment to placing American families and workers at the center of our economic and foreign policy, while strengthening our relationships with allies and partners for the purpose of increasing shared prosperity.”
Other IPEF participating countries include Quartet members Australia, India and Japan, as well as Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.
Pure security issues are still important in Asia.
Biden made headlines at the summit – perhaps inadvertently – when he said that the US Will be willing to defend Taiwan militarily China must attack it.
Asked by a reporter if the United States, in contrast to its approach to Ukraine, was willing to use its military to help Taiwan, Biden said “yes.”
“That’s the commitment we made. We are not…look, here’s the situation. We agree with the one-China policy. We signed it and all the accompanying agreements that were made from there,” the president said. “But the idea that it can be taken by force, only by force, is not appropriate. It will destabilize the whole region and it will be another act similar to what happened in Ukraine.”
Taiwan is a democratic, self-governing country, but Beijing considers the island to be part of China. The official US position is that there is “one China”. Unofficial US policy is known as “strategic ambiguity,” as the United States avoids saying one way or another how far it will go to protect Taiwan.
Biden’s statement seemed to put an end to much of the ambiguity, but US officials said behind Biden that official policy had not changed. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin attempted to explain that Biden “repeated that policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also highlighted our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to help provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself.”
Beijing did not have that.
“No one should underestimate the strong resolve, resolute will and strong ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and not stand against 1.4 billion Chinese,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.
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