Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi mocked President Joe Biden’s wide-ranging economic framework for failing to lower tariffs, in some of the strongest criticism yet of the US plan to counter Beijing’s influence in Asia.
“The so-called Indo-Pacific Economic Framework recently rolled out by the US claims to build a free, open, and inclusive new order, but how can any economic frame call itself free if it doesn’t lower tariffs?” Wang said Monday during a visit to Fiji, according to a statement posted on the Foreign Ministry’s website.
“How can it be called inclusive if it purposefully excludes China, the largest market in the region and in the world?”
It wasn’t clear under what circumstances Wang made the comments. Fiji last week became the 14th country and the first Pacific Island nation to join Biden’s IPEF.
China this week failed get ten Pacific Island nations on board with a sweeping trade and security deal during a summit attended by Wang in Fiji as part of his rare ten-day visit to the region.
Beijing had reportedly proposed a free-trade deal and a special envoy for Pacific Island nations, but the plan was shelved after some of the countries expressed concerns about specific elements in the proposal.
Wang said IPEF sought to “confine other countries” with the US’s standards and rules.
“The US is attempting to politicize and weaponize economic affairs, and even treat the matter ideologically,” Wang said. “Such a practice violates basic norms of economics. It is putting shackles on the free market.”