The Potential for Japan-South Korea-US Trilateral Cooperation Through IPEF
October 6, 2022
This article was published on The Diplomat on September 6, 2022.
Earlier this year, U.S. President Joe Biden introduced the Indo-Pacific Economy Framework (IPEF) as a new approach to connecting transpacific economies and that goes beyond traditional free trade agreements to fill the gap left by the U.S. exit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. IPEF could also serve as a potential platform for strengthening trilateral cooperation between the United States, South Korea, and Japan.
South Korea and Japan were early signatories to IPEF that continue to be closely involved in its ongoing negotiations, and all three play key roles at different levels of vital supply chains and are sensitive to global economic disruptions, most notably those impacting the automobile and digital technology industries. As the United States confronts these challenges, IPEF is its latest bid to use international economic collaboration to address key points of failure in the market. Through this opening, the framework’s “resilience” pillar provides a potential path for deep and sustained cooperation, particularly between Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo. Given ongoing challenges and past failures of conventional approaches, converging supply chain interests may be able to support extended cooperation for broader Indo-Pacific growth. From the South Korean perspective, IPEF presents the opportunity for trilateral leadership that is not stalled by the pitfalls of traditional engagement.
The COVID-19 pandemic intensified the demand for digitally-integrated products that facilitated safe engagement, which overloaded supply chains across many technology-reliant industries. In particular, shortfalls in the output of semiconductors continue to pose challenges that may last long into the future. The Russian invasion of Ukraine further exacerbated supply shortages, causing delays at all levels of production and transportation. The economic costs of disruptions, namely inflation, reveal the vulnerability of current supply chains.
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