India's withdrawal from the trade talks under the framework of the United States-initiated "Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity" is being viewed as another sign that the US-led initiative doesn't have legs.
Some of the potential participants have already expressed concerns about being forced to adopt US standards in areas such as the environment and data distribution, and the US' attempts to exclude China from global industry and supply chains.
In addition, Washington refuses to expand access to the US market.
With its obvious intention of building a US-centered regional economic clique, the initiative is so politically motivated that it would require fundamental changes to almost the whole of the global economic and trade systems. Changes that solely benefit the US.
The framework has four supposed pillars: trade, supply chains, clean energy and a fair economy. But rather than being pillars, they will actually serve as shackles for those countries participating in the initiative, since they are supposed to become cheap labor, resources and market providers for the US yet without gaining reciprocal access to the US market or enjoying the low tariffs that the US demands from them. Moreover, US standards will be enforced and the data of the other participants will be open to the US, yet not vice versa.
The IPEF is by no means intended to be a platform for more countries to draw on shared benefits and promote common development by lowering institutional barriers for trade and exchanges; instead, it is meant to build walls to divide the global market and economic system. As such, the framework is intended to serve the US' strategic goal of containing China and reshaping the global supply chain in favor of the US.
Without compromising its own interests and autonomy, the US is doing nothing but writing a rubber check for the participants.
The US administration's attempt to form an economic clique in the region to exclude China is doomed to failure. Economies in the Asia-Pacific have already forged fruitful value chains with China. This is the result of years of people-to-people exchanges and trade cooperation. Why would they throw away the fruits of years of effort simply to bear the huge costs of reconstructing the industrial and supply chains for the sake of the interests of the US?
In contrast to the US' self-serving initiative, the countries of Asia have generally accepted globalization and free trade as being mutually beneficial, and they have established and launched the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. What the US should do is to earnestly act on the rules of free trade that it espouses, instead of trying to roll back the wheels of regional integration.
The politicizing, weaponizing and ideologizing of economic issues and regional cooperation will only lead to the US being increasingly shunned in the region. The key to the vibrancy of the Asia-Pacific region is its emphasis on win-win cooperation, not zero-sum confrontation.