President Joe Biden’s administration has chosen the top staff negotiators to help lead talks on a long-awaited economic initiative for Asia that it plans to inaugurate during his trip to the region that begins Friday, according to people familiar with the plans.
Sharon Yuan, a veteran of the Treasury Department who worked on the abandoned Trans-Pacific Partnership, has been hired to oversee staff work on the main points of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, or IPEF, according to the people, who were granted anonymity to discuss the arrangements.
The Commerce Department, which will play a key role in negotiations on the framework, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s staff efforts will be led by Dawn Shackleford, the assistant USTR for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, according to the people. Shackleford will work with Deputy USTR Sarah Bianchi, the Biden appointee who is running the agency’s effort, according to an official who also requested anonymity.
The IPEF is key to the Biden administration’s efforts to counter China’s clout in Asia, following the US withdrawal from talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership regional trade agreement under former President Donald Trump.
The pillars of the framework being led by the Commerce Department include clean energy, supply-chain resilience; decarbonization and infrastructure; and taxation and anti-corruption. The US Trade Representative’s office is heading up the work on fair and resilient trade. The administration also has been working to include digital issues like localization and cross-border flows of data.
Yuan, a lawyer, joins Commerce after spending the past year as president of the Asia Group, a Washington-based strategic advisory firm co-founded by Kurt Campbell, who is now coordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs on the National Security Council. Shackleford previously served as assistant USTR for World Trade Organization and multilateral affairs.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and USTR Katherine Tai are set to travel with Biden for the official launch of the initiative during his five-day trip to South Korea and Japan.