The United States’ planned Indo-Pacific economic framework will be inclusive and flexible, unlike a normal free trade agreement, said Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Thursday.
Raimondo stated during a teleconference call during a visit to Malaysia that discussions on the framework are in the early stages, but that it may include several crucial sectors such as the digital economy, supply chain resiliency, infrastructure, export control, and sustainable energy.
“We absolutely do not envision this to be a traditional trade agreement,” she said, adding that the U.S. will develop the framework with allies in the months to come.
A Commerce Department official told Reuters in an email on Friday that no formal proposals on what the framework would include or its particular legal structure had been developed.
“We do expect it would be developed in close consultation and through robust engagement with a number of stakeholders, especially Congress, as we continue to define our goals and desired outcomes for the framework,” the spokesperson said.
Raimondo said on Wednesday that an Indo-Pacific economic framework might be unveiled early next year, and that her Asia trip was intended to set the groundwork for prospective partnerships.
After former President Donald Trump withdrew from a U.S.-inspired trade deal, now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, critics of U.S. strategy for the area pointed to its absence of an economic component.
Earlier on Thursday, the United States and Malaysia announced in a joint statement that they intend to finalise an agreement by early 2022 to improve transparency, resilience, and security in semiconductor and manufacturing supply chains.
The arrangement comes as Malaysia strives to address a scarcity of semiconductor chips caused by limits implemented this year to stop a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Malaysia’s chip assembly business, which accounts for more than a tenth of global trade valued at more than $20 billion, has warned that shortages will persist for at least two years.
Raimondo stated that both governments met with the semiconductor industry on Thursday to discuss a variety of issues, including reducing redundancy in investments and increasing supply.