PM to attend Tokyo launch of U.S. trade initiative

India is yet to take a decision on joining trade partnership framework, but is keen to understand the ‘contours’ of the plan

May 22, 2022 01:40 pm | Updated May 23, 2022 08:11 am IST - New Delhi

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves as he arrives at Haneda airport in Tokyo on May 23, 2022.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves as he arrives at Haneda airport in Tokyo on May 23, 2022. | Photo Credit: AFP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, May 23, 2022 arrived in Japan on a two-day visit to attend a summit of the Quad leaders which is aimed at further bolstering cooperation among the member nations of the influential grouping and discussing developments in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Landed in Tokyo. Will be taking part in various programmes during this visit including the Quad Summit, meeting fellow Quad leaders, interacting with Japanese business leaders and the vibrant Indian diaspora,” Mr. Modi tweeted in both Japanese and English.

“Ohayō, Tokyo! PM @narendramodi arrives to a warm welcome in Tokyo on what is his fifth visit to Japan in the last 8 years,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted.

Besides Mr. Modi, the Quad summit in Tokyo on May 24 will be attended by U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Australian Prime Minister-elect Anthony Albanese.

PM Modi’s Itinerary on May 23, 2022

1400 hrs onwards:

Meeting with Nobuhiro Endo, Chairman, NEC Corporation

Meeting with Tadashi Yanai, Chairman/President & CEO, UNIQLO

Meeting with Osamu Suzuki, Adviser, Suzuki Motor Corporation

Meeting with Masayoshi Son, Board Director at Softbank Group Corp

1630 hrs: Attending Indo-Pacific Economic Framework event

1730 hrs: Roundtable with Japanese Business Leaders

1930 hrs: interaction with the Indian Community. *All timings are in local time (Japan)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will participate in U.S. President Joseph Biden’s unveiling of the “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework” (IPEF) in Tokyo on Monday, a US initiative for trade partnerships in the region, sources confirmed. Mr. Modi’s attendance of the event is a significant step towards building economic ties amongst Quad countries in the Indo-Pacific, although officials were hesitant to bill the IPEF as a counter the 15-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the 17-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that China is a member of. 

Briefing the media ahead of the event, U.S. NSA Jake Sullivan said that the IPEF would have a “very wide-ranging membership”, adding, significantly, that the programme is “designed to put workers at the center — American workers,” with a focus on the digital economy, clean energy transition, infrastructure and resilient supply chains. 

India has not taken a decision on joining the framework, but is keen to understand the “contours” of the American plan said an official, confirming that Indian delegates would join the launch of negotiations expected on Monday as well. On Saturday, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said that “discussions and the conversations are still going on” on the IPEF draft.

Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | Quad meet: differences between India and others

After landing in Tokyo on Monday, PM Modi is expected to meet Japanese business leaders in one-on-one interactions including heads of NEC corporation, Uniqlo garments, Suzuki motors, and the SoftBank Group, attend the IPEF event with Mr. Biden and other leaders, also attend a business roundtable. On Tuesday he will meet with US President Joseph Biden, Japanese PM Fumio Kishida and the just-elected Australian PM Anthony Albanese for the Quad summit after which he will hold bilateral talks with each of them.

During the Quad summit on Tuesday officials have said the Quad focus is on areas of convergence like trade, infrastructure, climate change and critical technologies, it is clear that divisions over the war in Ukraine, food security, the vaccine initiative and a number of other issues including the US push to bring Taiwan back as an observer at the World Health Assembly this week will also come up at the meeting.

“The second in-person Quad Leaders’ Summit will provide an opportunity for the leaders of the four Quad countries to review the progress of Quad initiatives. We will also exchange views about developments in the Indo-Pacific region and global issues of mutual interest,” said Prime Minister Modi in a departure statement. 

Mr. Modi’s reference to “developments in the Indo-Pacific” region indicates India’s consistent policy that it would not include comments on Russia in its diplomatic engagements with other countries. The position was underlined during the Quad leaders’ last interaction, a virtual meeting in March, where the joint statement did not reflect sharp criticism of Russia that marked the statements made by the other three leaders. 

In the past week, India has also run up against the US and Japan at G-7 meetings, as well as at the UN Security Council over its decision to ban wheat exports amidst global shortages of Ukrainian wheat.

In a press briefing on Sunday, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that Mr. Biden will continue to discuss the “impacts of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine on a wider set of concerns in the world, including this food security concern,” in his conversations with PM Modi in Tokyo. 

However, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said on Saturday that “there is a full understanding and appreciation of [India’s] policy [on Ukraine] in the world, including among [India’s] main partners”, and reiterated India’s food security needs are “paramount”, when asked about the US’s call to reverse the government’s wheat export ban.

Mr. Kwatra said that the Quad will organise a special session on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly (WHA) on May 24, where the four countries will jointly tackle issues of disinformation during the pandemic and boosting vaccine confidence. The grouping is also expected to discuss and possibly review its Quad Vaccine Initiative project to disburse US-developed and funded, India-made distributed by Japan and Australia amongst Indo-Pacific countries that has been stuck due to what Mr. Sullivan called “regulatory issues” with India. The first Quad interaction last year had committed to distributing one billion of the vaccines, made at Hyderabad-based Biological-E by the end of 2022, but have made no headway on the project yet.

Another issue the Quad is divided over whether to support Taiwan’s request to be included as an observer at the WHA, something China opposes. While the US, Australia and Japan have backed the Taiwanese request, India has made no statement thus far, and MEA officials did not confirm whether India would endorse it.

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