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‘Indo-Pacific Economic Framework’ not a blessing to Asia

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Aurthor: Xin Ping

The U.S. has been trumpeting that its “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework” (IPEF) will bring prosperity to the region. But its sole purpose is to advance the “Indo-Pacific Strategy” and key interests of the U.S. instead of driving post-pandemic recovery, development and prosperity of the region. Asian countries need to brace themselves for the negative impact brought on by the framework which could be summed up as “four Ds.”

Division

IPEF is created to encourage regional economies to “decouple” from the Chinese market by leading them to alternative supply chains, a step that Washington believes will help exclude China from the regional trading and supply systems.

This would essentially install a closed, exclusive and confrontational arrangement within this region designed with clear geopolitical and ideological intentions, which runs counter to the principles of multilateralism.The U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai has openly described the IPEF as an “arrangement independent of China.”

Given China’s economic size and influence in the region and the possible consequences of artificially splitting the trading system and cutting off supply chains, such an arrangement would not be conducive to the unity and regional economic integration of the Asia-Pacific.

There are speculations that as far as ASEAN countries are concerned, the U.S. is trying to recruit Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam to join IPEF, while leaving out Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Brunei, which will undoubtedly affect the development of the ASEAN Community and undermine the unity of ASEAN.

Deprivation

The U.S. claims to support the centrality of ASEAN, yet IPEF apparently takes little heed of ASEAN’s preferred way of inclusive regional cooperation. A framework like this would only weaken and damage ASEAN’s centrality in the regional architecture.

IPEF’s proclaimed high standards in the fields of digital economy, labor, market supervision, environmental protection and anti-corruption are way higher than the standards set by domestic laws in some ASEAN countries and even by international conventions.

The Lane Xang EMU train arrives at the northern Laos’ border town of Boten, after passing by the China-Laos borderline, October 15, 2021. /Xinhua

In a sense, the U.S. could be forcing these countries to adopt certain domestic economic policies to serve U.S. interests. The exclusive and even punitive provisions contained in IPEF may contradict the commitments made in regional free trade agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Deviation

Putting forward IPEF is one of the 10 core tasks of the U.S. “Indo-Pacific Strategy.” The U.S. potentially aims to use IPEF to supplement its “Indo-Pacific Strategy” and establish a unilaterally dominant economic cooperation arrangement, rather than a true free trade agreement with mutual open market access and tariff exemption as desired by the regional countries.

It is, therefore, a deviation from the principles of openness, inclusiveness, equality and reciprocity that multilateral mechanisms and arrangements in the region have long followed.

Disappointment

The U.S. might hope to use IPEF to get regional allies and ASEAN countries on board to encircle China, but this is unlikely to materialize.

China and ASEAN are each other’s largest trading partners. Japan’s exports to China are roughly the same as those to the U.S., and imports twice as much from China as from the U.S. South Korea’s trade with the U.S. is only half of its trade with China. With RCEP having entered into effect early this year, the cooperation potential among regional countries will only be further unleashed.

The U.S. has repeatedly reneged on its words about Asia-Pacific economic and trade cooperation: the Obama administration had pushed forward the concept of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) before the Trump administration exited from it after taking office. Now the Biden administration has come up with IPEF. Inconsistency in Washington’s policy-making will only make regional countries question U.S. credibility and policy continuity.

As Mary Lafley, a senior researcher at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, pointed out, “Asian allies, still reeling from the unpredictable and destabilizing policies of the Trump administration, may be reluctant to invest much in new structures that can be as easily blown away as houses of straw.”

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President announces a mega project to establish Island Council Secretariats in fifty islands within the year

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President Dr Mohamed Muizzu has announced a mega project to establish buildings to house the Island Council Secretariats on fifty islands within the year. He made the announcement while meeting the residents of HDh. Makunudhoo Island.

The President detailed that the buildings to house the Island Council Secretariats on fifty islands would be built under the Investor Finance Model. He stated that the fifty islands for the project would be selected based on the severity of the deterioration of the existing facilities that house the councils.

President Dr Muizzu reiterated his commitment to fully realising the autonomous functioning of the decentralised administration of the Administrative Divisions. Additionally, he expressed his intention to collaborate closely with the public.

The President further announced plans to extend Makunudhoo Airport’s runway to 1800 meters. He emphasised that the land reclamation project for the island would be strategically designed to foster development across the island. Furthermore, he added that the road construction project will be executed per his commitment.

Source(s): President’s Office

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Maldives stresses lack of funds for sustainable food

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The Maldives has emphasised that the primary obstacle for small nations like itself in advancing towards a sustainable food production system is the lack of financial resources. The remarks were delivered by Minister of Agriculture and Animal Welfare Dr. Aishath Rameela, during her address at the 37th Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Ministerial Meeting.

In her participation as a panelist during the session, Minister Rameela delved into the challenges and potential strategies for attaining food security amidst environmental adversities encountered by small developing nations such as the Maldives, exacerbated by insufficient resources. In addition, she presented a ‘Country Statement’ on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Authority of the Maldives, outlining the agricultural and fisheries sectors’ status and the country’s requirements for support in these domains.

Within the statement, President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu underscored the obstacles to agricultural, fisheries, and mariculture development, along with the ongoing efforts to implement policies aimed at alleviating these hindrances and enhancing food security and nutritional conditions within the country. He also highlighted the necessity for regional cooperation and assistance in bolstering the agricultural, fisheries, and mariculture sectors.

During discussions revolving around transitioning to sustainable food production and consumption systems, Minister Rameela reiterated that the foremost challenge for small nations like the Maldives in achieving such a shift lies in the insufficient allocation of financial resources. She further urged financially affluent countries to extend support to small island nations like the Maldives.

The biennially held largest conference on food and agriculture in the Asia Pacific region is slated to take place in Pakistan in 2026.

Source(s): PsmNews

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President rejects legislature to postpone Majlis election

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President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu has rejected legislature passed by the Parliament seeking to postpone the upcoming parliamentary elections to after Ramadan.

A top government spokesperson told that the president rejected the bill because changing the election date would result in “loss of public trust.”

He said the decision was based on five factors. Which is:

  • Because the bill requires the publication of national ID card numbers when the voter’s list is published on the Government Gazette, which the administration considers private information.
  • The lack of details on the appointment or qualification of “focal points” who must be arranged by the Elections Commission and charged with significant responsibilities under the bill.
  • With reference to Article 79 (b) of the constitution, which states that all election-related matters must be completed 30 days before the term of the incumbent parliamentary assembly expires. The administration believes the bill opens room to finish all election-related matters ahead of the time stipulated in the constitution, making the provision unconstitutional.
  • Article 75 of the constitution stipulates that parliamentarians must act in the best interest of the nation. But the administration believes there is grounds to believe that some of the parliamentarians, who are running for re-election, are acting in their own interest in changing the election date.

Because altering the Elections Act and changing the election date would result in loss of public confidence in the election

MDP: There’s still room for post-Ramadan Majlis elections

The decision came after Ahmed Easa, the manager for the main opposition MDP’s parliamentary elections campaign, said there was still an opportunity to postpone the upcoming elections, to after Ramadan.

The decision comes after Ahmed Easa, the manager for the main opposition MDP’s parliamentary elections campaign, said there was still an opportunity to postpone the upcoming elections, to after Ramadan.

In a press briefing on Monday morning, Easa, who serves as the parliamentary representative for Kendhikulhudhoo, reiterated MDP’s assertion, that the vast majority of the public want the elections to be held after Ramadan.

He said that Ramadan is a hard month to hold political activities, and that a low voter turnout is of great concern to political parties.

The parliamentary elections is scheduled for March 17th – which falls within the first week of Ramadan.

The Elections Commission (EC) had pushed for legal reforms to hold the elections ahead of Ramadan, as the Elections Act requires the commission to initiate the process of holding the elections, at least 120 days before the end of the term of the incumbent parliamentary assembly – which is May 28th.

Holding the elections before or ahead of Ramadan, required legal amendments.

The Parliament – which MDP holds a majority in – rejected EC’s request to hold the elections ahead of Ramadan, opting instead to have the elections held after the holy month.

An MDP-sponsored bill banning national elections during Ramadan passed with a majority vote of 46 to 3, on February 11th.

According to the new bill, if an election date falls within Ramadan, it must be held 10 days after Ramadan ends.

The president had until Wednesday, to either ratify or reject the bill.

But on Monday afternoon, within hours after MDP’s press briefing, the President’s Office announced that President Muizzu had rejected the legislature, and sent it back to the Parliament.

The MDP had anticipated the move.

The party warned last week that it will pass the same bill again, with a greater majority, if the president refused to ratify the bill, which will result in the automatic ratification of the bill.

Source(s): sun.mv

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