India hasn’t joined the crucial “trade pillar” of the US-led Indo-Pacific Economic Forum for Prosperity (IPEF) initiative but is on board for the other three pillars.
Addressing reporters on the sidelines of a two-day IPEF ministerial here on Friday, US trade representative Katherine Tai said: “India is not now in the ‘trade pillar’. However, minister (Piyush) Goyal and I have been talking and we have our bilateral and trade policy forum. I should be meeting him by the end of this year. We would cover the same issues in that bilateral channel.”
Asked why India opted out, Tai said: “That question you should pose to minister Goyal. I wouldn’t characterise it as opting out, India is not in the trade pillar right now.” It means doors remain open for New Delhi to join the ‘trade’ pillar later should it change its mind.
India will be a part of three of the four IPEF pillars, such as the resilient economy (supply chain), clean economy (clean energy, decarbonisation, and infrastructure) and fair economy (anti-corruption, anti-money laundering and tax). But it has refrained from joining the connected economy (trade) pillar.
Speaking at the first in-person meeting of trade ministers of the IPEF members here on Thursday, the USTR had stressed how the IPEF will be “a 21st century tool to tackle 21st century issues, including supply chain resilience and digital commerce”. This framework “will be a durable model for the rest of the world to follow”, Tai had said. The IPEF is being viewed as a mechanism to counter the aggressive and non-transparent trade and economic policies of China. The IPEF is a grouping of 14 countries in the Indo-Pacific region, which make up over 40% of the global GDP. The 14 members are Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the US.