India will work to put Indo-Pacific region on path to peace, prosperity: PM Modi

Amiti Sen | | Updated on: May 23, 2022
US President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity launch event in Tokyo

US President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity launch event in Tokyo | Photo Credit: Jonathan Ernst

India has formally joined the US-led 13-member Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity

India has formally joined the 13-member Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) initiative launched by US President Joe Biden in Tokyo on Monday. The IPEF seeks to frame rules and standards in digital economy, supply chain management, clean energy and fair economy to deepen economic engagement in the region. 

The initiative — which also includes Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam — is being largely viewed as a US effort to counter the growing influence of China in the Indo-Pacific  region.

“India will work with all countries for establishing an IPEF which is both inclusive and flexible,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the launch.

He said trust, transparency and timeliness were the foundation of resilient supply chains and the framework would help strengthen these three pillars and put the Indo-Pacific region on the path to progress, peace and prosperity.

Focus areas

While, as per plans, member countries will not negotiate on bringing down tariffs on goods, India has to watch out for areas that are sensitive to its interests such as commitments on cross-border data flows and data localisation, de-carbonisation, labour standards and early warning systems for supply chain management which could prove to be a challenge.

“We will pursue high-standard rules of the road in the digital economy, including standards on cross-border data flows and data localization…We will also seek strong labor and environment standards and corporate accountability provisions that promote a race to the top for workers through trade,” read a statement released by the White House on Monday.

The US also intends to seek “first-of-their-kind commitments” on clean energy, decarbonisation, and infrastructure that promote good-paying jobs. “We will pursue concrete, high-ambition targets that will accelerate efforts to tackle the climate crisis, including in the areas of renewable energy, carbon removal, energy efficiency standards, and new measures to combat methane emissions,” the statement said.

To guard against price spikes, the US also wants commitments on establishing an early warning system, mapping critical mineral supply chains, improving traceability in key sectors, and coordinating on diversification efforts.

Many civil society organisations from member-countries have stressed on the need to hold transparent negotiations to ensure that talks happen in a participatory manner.

“We are especially concerned that IPEF will also be employed to curtail much needed efforts for digital industrialisation and sovereignty of countries, and herald a new era of digital colonialism. Indian civil society organisations are also extremely worried that companies are demanding stronger intellectual property protection on medicines, investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) and other provisions from the very problematic Trans-Pacific Partnership and any IPEF should not contain any of these provisions,” said Parminder Jeet Singh of the Forum on Trade and Development.

“IPEF cannot meet its claimed goals  of improving workers’ rights and environmental standards without a far more transparent process with genuine involvement of unions, environment groups and other civil society groups. It will certainly not meet such goals if it is modeled on the TPP…”, said Patricia Ranald, Convener, Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network.

Published on May 23, 2022
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