Japan, Australia and India launched on Tuesday a new framework to mutually strengthen their supply chains of cars, medical equipment and other products amid the coronavirus pandemic, in a veiled attempt at relying less on key regional trade partner China.
The launch came as the three countries have been working together to address vulnerabilities in the global manufacturing system, which continues to be hit by virus-induced trade disruptions.
In a videoconference, Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama and his counterparts Dan Tehan of Australia and Piyush Goyal of India said the framework called the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative will eventually attain a "strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth in the region.
The initiative also aims to achieve sustainable growth in the Indo-Pacific region by drawing in India after the South Asian country's withdrawal from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership -- a multilateral trade pact involving 15 Asia-Pacific countries, including China and South Korea.
In a joint statement issued afterward, the ministers said the initiative will promote the enhanced utilization of digital technology and diversification of trade and investment opportunities.
They also recognized that the pandemic had revealed supply chain vulnerabilities and stressed the need for risk management and business continuity plans to avoid such disruptions.
The pandemic has affected Japanese businesses with shortages of auto and electronic parts from China while also disrupting the stable supply of medical equipment.
The statement said the initiative's initial projects include sharing of best practices on supply chain resilience and holding investing promotion and buyer-seller matching events to help businesses to diversify their supply chains.
The three ministers also agreed to hold a meeting related to the framework's implementation at least once a year, according to Japan's economy ministry.
The countries agreed in their previous videoconference in September to enhance regional supply chains and draw up measures toward such ends.