Seven members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have said they will participate in talks on a new economic framework for the Indo-Pacific, known as IPEF.
Officials in these countries are currently evaluating the potential merits of IPEF.
The Philippines’ new president, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., told a press conference on Monday that he would value the new framework. Marcos said the Philippines is deeply involved in the launch of IPEF and sees itself as an important member as it wants to open up the country’s economy as much as possible.
Vietnam expressed a more cautious view.
Its Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh attended the online meeting on Monday and said his country would continue discussions with ASEAN members and relevant countries to clarify cooperation to make the framework effective. He said he will ask IPEF to bring substantial benefits to ASEAN countries, including his own.
An expert on ASEAN issues, former ISEAS fellow guest Supalak Ganjanakhundee, told NHK the region needed something to counterbalance China’s growing economic and political influence. He said the framework “is still vague, but anyway, it’s the ASEAN style: join first and negotiate later.”
IPEF’s functions do not include reducing tariffs, even if ASEAN countries want to increase their exports to the United States. Instead, the United States focused on other aspects of cooperation before the framework was launched. These include clean energy and supply chain resilience.
The expert said the IPEF could help some big countries, but it could alienate smaller ones. ASEAN members can try to gauge how much the framework can actually help their respective economies.