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China should take an objective and cautious attitude towards US President Joe Biden’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), top-ranking former Chinese officials have said. The IPEF, which is not a traditional free-trade agreement but seeks to establish rules covering areas from data protection to carbon emissions, was launched in Tokyo last month.

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The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), an economic strategy proposed by the US, is a new attempt to revise the connection between the US and Asia-Pacific countries. As an open framework, the success of IPEF is still open to question as there are no trade provisions or potentially reduced tariffs for commercial activities. As such, the participation of Vietnam is largely dependent on the outcome of discussions and implementation.

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The recently launched US-led IPEF, which includes 13 Asian countries, is not a traditional free trade agreement but its success will depend on whether it offers tangible benefits to participating countries.

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The Quad leaders have met for the fourth time in just over a year, indicating that this four-nation club is taking on a more institutional character. The second in-person Quad summit, held in Tokyo on May 24 with much fanfare, should be seen in that context where initiatives of critical importance were launched before and during the Summit.

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The move by seven Asean states to sign up for Washington’s new trade pact, even as few details about the deal are known, is not only a signal of support for US re-engagement with the region but a bid to better ensure the balance of power in the neighbourhood, analysts say.

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