Fiji joins Biden's Indo-Pacific Economic Framework

Fiji joins Biden's Indo-Pacific Economic Framework

WASHINGTON - Fiji is joining U.S. President Joe Biden's Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, the White House said Thursday. It is the first Pacific Island country in the plan that is part of a U.S. effort to push back China's growing regional influence.

The announcement comes as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi begins a sweeping tour of Pacific Island nations - including Fiji - a region that is becoming an increasingly tense front in competition for influence between Beijing and Washington.

Wang arrived in the region this week, hoping to get a 10 country deal with island nations there on security and trade that has unnerved the United States and its Pacific allies.

The White House welcomed Fiji as a founding member of the economic framework, which now includes countries from Northeast and Southeast Asia, South Asia, Oceania and the Pacific Islands.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement underscoring Fiji's valuable perspective in the fight against climate change, we are united across the region in our commitment to a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.

Biden launched the framework this week during his first trip to Asia, which has demanded more U.S. economic engagement.

Fiji is the 14th country to join the framework, which excludes China.

Washington has lacked an economic pillar to its Indo-Pacific engagement since former President Donald Trump quit a multinational trans-Pacific trade agreement in part because of concerns over U.S. jobs.

Some Asian countries and trade experts expressed skepticism about the plan, because the framework is unlikely to include binding commitments.