As the Biden administration enters its final push to secure an “early harvest agreement” on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) ahead of the APEC Leaders’ Summit on 14-16 November, the United States Studies Centre (USSC) at the University of Sydney has released two publications outlining the main hurdles to locking in a substantive agreement between members across the region.

USSC CEO Dr Michael Green noted, “IPEF certainly has its challenges, but our researchers are focused on tackling them. In these publications there are not just concrete recommendations on diverse trade issues but also a matrix of the most feasible pathways forward, where there is most ­­– and least – alignment between partner countries, and in the US Congress­.”

In An economic pillar to round out US strategy in Asia: IPEF and Australia's interests, Director of Economic Security Hayley Channer, Director of Research Jared Mondschein and Research Editor Victoria Cooper outline Australia’s interests in lieu of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Topping the list of Australia’s IPEF priorities are diversifying critical mineral supply chains and securing a digital trade agreement.

“While our polling shows that twice as many Americans support joining a TPP-like agreement than those who don’t, we have to accept that that ship has truly sailed,” Mr Mondschein commented.

Ms Channer said, “IPEF may be hard to define, but the benefit of early engagement is the opportunity to truly shape the framework from the outset.”

A matrix of IPEF areas of focus, their feasibility and the crux of the issue from a US perspective is included in the brief What options are on the table for IPEF? by USSC Research Associate Samuel Garrett. Technical assistance for supply chains, upskilling initiatives and educational exchanges are clear areas with broad support and precedent, but TPP-like pharmaceutical agreements under the trade pillar looks like a non-starter.

Ms Channer concluded, “Australians would benefit from a digital trade agreement and diversified supply chains for critical minerals but our overarching interest in IPEF is to bolster and enhance the rules-based economic architecture that has greatly benefited Australia.”

An economic pillar to round out US strategy in Asia: IPEF and Australia's interests and What options are on the table for IPEF? are now available online.

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