India on Monday joined a US-led initiative to set up an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework to bind partner countries to achieve common goals, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserting that New Delhi will work with the stakeholders to make it an "inclusive and flexible" structure to pave the way for development, peace and prosperity in the region.
Rolling out the IPEF a day ahead of the Quad summit, US President Joe Biden said 12 countries have joined the new initiative which is largely seen as an attempt to counter growing Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
The countries joining at the launch of the US-led initiative are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
In his comments at the launch ceremony of the new initiative, Prime Minister Modi said that announcement of IPEF is a declaration of a collective desire to make the Indo-Pacific an "engine of global economic growth" and called for finding common and creative solutions to tackle economic challenges of the region.
He also underlined that the foundation of resilient supply chains must be based on the 3T's -- trust, transparency and timeliness.
"India will work with all of you to build an inclusive and flexible Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. I believe that there should be three main pillars of resilient supply chains between us: trust, transparency and timeliness," Modi said.
"I am confident that this framework will help strengthen these three pillars, and pave the way for development, peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region," he said.
According to official documents, the framework includes four pillars: trade; supply chains; clean energy and infrastructure; and tax and anti-corruption.
The ministry of external affairs said that "with today's launch, partner countries will begin discussions focusing on strengthening economic cooperation and achieving shared goals."
The IPEF seeks to strengthen economic partnership amongst participating countries with the objective of enhancing resilience, sustainability, inclusiveness, economic growth, fairness, and competitiveness in the Indo-Pacific region besides cooperating on anti-corruption efforts.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the IPEF is not a traditional free trade agreement and that the fundamental view behind it is that the new landscape and the new challenges need a new approach.
The rollout of the IPEF came as part of Washington's efforts to push forward a strong economic policy for the Indo-Pacific to counter China's aggressive strategy on trade in the region.
"The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework is a declaration of our collective will to make the region an engine of global economic growth. I thank President Biden very much for this important initiative," Modi said.
"The Indo-Pacific region is the centre of manufacturing, economic activity, global trade and investment. History is witness to the fact that India has been a major centre for centuries in the trade flows of the Indo-Pacific region," he said.
The prime minister said India has historically been at the centre of trade flows in the Indo-Pacific region, having the world's oldest commercial port in Lothal, Gujarat.
In his remarks, Biden the future of the 21st-century economy is going to be largely written in the Indo-Pacific and that was the reason behind the launch of the initiative.
"The future of the 21st Century economy is going to largely be written in the Indo-Pacific -- in our region," Biden said adding "We are writing the new rules."
"The Indo-Pacific covers half the population of the world and more than 60 per cent of the global GDP. And the nations represented here today, and those who will join this framework in the future, are signing up to work toward an economic vision that will deliver for all peoples," he said.
In a joint statement, the participating countries said that the purpose of the initiative is to advance resilience, sustainability, inclusiveness, economic growth, fairness, and competitiveness of their economies.
"Today, we launch collective discussions toward future negotiations on the following pillars. Framework partners will be engaging in such discussions on various ways to strengthen economic cooperation to achieve these goals, and we invite other interested Indo-Pacific partners to join us," the joint statement said.
Specifically referring to trade, the countries said they seek to build high-standard, inclusive, free, and fair trade commitments and develop new and creative approaches in trade and technology policy that advance a broad set of objectives to fuel economic activity and investment.
On supply chains, the countries said: "We are committed to improving transparency, diversity, security, and sustainability in our supply chains to make them more resilient and well-integrated."
"We seek to coordinate crisis response measures; expand cooperation to better prepare for and mitigate the effects of disruptions to better ensure business continuity; improve logistical efficiency and support; and ensure access to key raw and processed materials, semiconductors, critical minerals, and clean energy technology," the statement said.
The countries also identified clean energy, decarbonisation and infrastructure as major areas of cooperation. "In line with our Paris Agreement goals and efforts to support the livelihood of our peoples and workers, we plan to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technologies to decarbonise our economies and build resilience to climate impacts," the statement added.
"This involves deepening cooperation on technologies, on mobilizing finance, including concessional finance, and on seeking ways to improve competitiveness and enhance connectivity by supporting the development of sustainable and durable infrastructure and by providing technical assistance," it said.
At a media briefing, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said the IPEF is intentionally designed not to be a 'same old, same old' traditional trade agreement.
"But it's designed as a more innovative and flexible approach, designed to reflect the fact that our economies have changed. The most pressing issues that we need to tackle with our allies have changed, and we need a new approach going forward if we're going to meet the needs of our citizens," the US official said.