Australia, Japan, the United States and other nations on Saturday kicked off their first in-person round of negotiations aimed at setting economic rules and standards in the Indo-Pacific amid China's growing clout in the region.
The six-day meeting in Australia follows a ministerial gathering involving 14 members of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which represents 40 percent of global gross domestic product, according to the U.S. government.
The negotiations will center on four pillars -- fair trade, supply chain resilience, infrastructure and clean energy, and tax and anti-corruption. The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden has excluded politically-sensitive tariff-cutting talks that are traditionally part of free trade agreements.
Under the trade pillar, the members would negotiate commitments in areas such as trade facilitation, which can be improved through simplified customs procedures, and agriculture, which may be facing unjustified export restrictions.
A senior Biden administration official said before the meeting that trade facilitation and agriculture are among areas that seem to have "real consensus."
IPEF was launched during Biden's visit to Tokyo in May. The other partners are Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.
In the first in-person ministerial meeting held in Los Angeles in September, the members agreed to start formal negotiations.
IPEF is part of the Biden administration's efforts to economically re-engage with the fast-growing Indo-Pacific, after his predecessor Donald Trump withdrew the United States from what was then known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal in 2017.
In October, Canada said it will seek membership to the IPEF, with the Biden administration expressing support for Canada's bid.