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TOKYO: US President Joe Biden launched a new Asia-Pacific trade initiative Monday in Tokyo, with 13 countries including India and Japan signed up, although questions about the pact’s effectiveness remain.

Biden formally unveiled the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, or IPEF, on his second day in Japan, where he held talks with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida ahead of a regional Quad summit on Tuesday.

“I believe we’ll win the competition of the 21st century together,” he said at the launch, attended in person by Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and virtually by representatives from the other countries.

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Unlike traditional trade blocs, there is no plan for IPEF members to negotiate tariffs and ease market access — a tool that has become increasingly unpalatable to US voters fearful of seeing homegrown manufacturing undermined.

Instead, the programme foresees integrating partners through agreed standards in four main areas: the digital economy, supply chains, clean energy infrastructure and anti-corruption measures.

The starting list of members in addition to the United States is Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

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