Biden looks to expand US influence in Asia

US President Joe Biden (centre)
US President Joe Biden is in the midst of a five-day visit to South Korea and Japan. -AP

US President Joe Biden is set to launch a new Indo-Pacific trade pact designed to signal US dedication to the region and address the need for stability in commerce after the chaos caused by the pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The US president will also devote great attention to the informal alliance known as the Quad.

Biden and fellow leaders from the alliance, which also includes Australia, India and Japan, are set to gather in Tokyo for their second in-person meeting in less than a year.

Biden will wrap up his five days in Asia on Tuesday with the Quad meeting and one-on-one talks with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australia's new prime minister, Anthony Albanese.

The centre-left leader of the Australian Labor Party this weekend defeated incumbent Scott Morrison and ended nine years of conservative rule.

Biden is in the midst of a five-day visit to South Korea and Japan — the first trip to Asia of his presidency — that wraps on Tuesday. 

The White House says the new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework will help the United States and Asian economies work more closely on issues including supply chains, digital trade, clean energy, worker protections and anti-corruption efforts. 

The details still need to be negotiated among the member countries, making it difficult for the administration to say how this framework can fulfill the promise of helping US workers and businesses while also meeting global needs.

Countries signing on to the framework are to be announced later on Monday during Biden's visit to Tokyo for talks with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. 

It's the latest step by the Biden administration to try to preserve and broaden US influence in a region that until recently looked to be under the growing sway of China.

The White House announced plans to build the economic framework in October as a replacement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the US dropped out of in 2017 under then-President Donald Trump.

The new pact comes at a moment when the administration believes it has the edge in its competition with Beijing. 

US GDP growth is projected at about 2.8 per cent in 2022 compared to 2 per cent for China, which has been trying to contain the coronavirus through strict lockdowns while also dealing with a property bust.

The launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, also known as IPEF, has been billed by the White House as one of the bigger moments of Biden's Asia trip and of his ongoing effort to bolster ties with Pacific allies. 

Biden's first stop on Monday was a private meeting with Emperor Naruhito of Japan before wide-ranging talks with Kishida about trade, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the North Korean nuclear threat, the two countries' COVID-19 responses and more.

Kishida and Biden will also meet with families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea decades ago.