The Straits Times says

Biden's encouraging signals to Asean

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In a welcome move, United States President Joe Biden promised a new era of relations with Asean during a special leaders' summit last week to mark 45 years of ties. Both sides will work on upgrading to a comprehensive strategic partnership in November, along the lines of similar agreements that Asean struck with Australia and China last year. Mr Biden also named a senior aide to serve as ambassador to Asean, filling a post that had lain vacant for the entirety of the Trump administration. Washington has thus sent a clear signal that it is not so preoccupied with the war in Europe as to neglect South-east Asia, where it is engaged in a geostrategic tussle with China.

The Biden White House is next poised to unveil an economic framework for the Indo-Pacific to boost collaboration in areas like digital trade, clean energy and infrastructure. While an encouraging move, the framework may disappoint some in Asean hoping for a more traditional free trade agreement with better market access. But that's a bridge too far for a Biden administration that has no appetite for the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership which evolved out of an Obama-era deal ditched by former president Donald Trump. And because it has not signed an FTA with the grouping, the US is also sitting out the Asean-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the world's largest free trade deal, which includes China.

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