The Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) is the United States’ first major economic initiative in the region in more than half a decade, but is it enough?

The United States Studies Centre (USSC) asked two leading US trade experts to examine the pros and cons of the new framework for participating Indo-Pacific countries that aims to solidify their relationships and engage in crucial economic matters in the region asking: Is the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework glass half full or glass half empty?

Former US diplomat and trade negotiator in the Office of the US Trade Representative Wendy Cutler argues IPEF is a “solid, serious and relevant initiative”, while Daniel Price, a former economic advisor to President George W. Bush, posits that IPEF “will do little for America’s middle class, workers or strategic interests”.

USSC CEO Dr Michael Green says, “It is exciting to be launching this Debate Paper on such a timely topic. We want to tap into the insights of people who have been in the trenches to know what goes into these policy decisions so we could not be more thrilled to have Wendy and Dan go head-to-head for this first one.”

In critiquing IPEF, Price points out the emphases on slogans rather than actual trade negotiations, noting the Framework is yet more evidence that the Biden administration’s foreign policy “for the middle class” is less of a prism than a prison.

However, Cutler frames IPEF as a key steppingstone and a necessary first step in a journey leading to more tactical agreements.

“Like all good compromises, IPEF leaves no one fully satisfied, but while Price’s take may be more pessimistic than Cutler’s, there is actually little daylight between the two positions,” Green notes.

He concludes, “both want more from IPEF. Cutler sees it as a significant and impactful overture and Price offers specific advice on how to turn the ‘prism’ into meaningful policy. They are both focused on finding solutions, which is exactly what allies and partners in the region need to be doing.”

Is the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework glass half full or glass half empty? is the first in a series of debate papers from the USSC.

Media contact: Patrick Whiteley – 0468 480 165