A U.S.-led economic initiative for the Indo-Pacific region came a step closer to completion on Thursday as the 14 negotiating nations agreed on two of three remaining pillars, allowing their leaders to showcase a framework seen as a counter to China's rise.

The participating countries called the agreement on the two areas -- fairness and clean energy economies -- "substantive conclusions" supporting the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework spearheaded by U.S. President Joe Biden. They will create a minister-level body to check the progress annually.

The partners of what is known as IPEF have achieved "unprecedented results in record time, developing innovative, first-of-their-kind approaches to addressing 21st-century challenges and strengthening economic engagement across a critical region," they said in a statement.

Ministers from 14 nations, including Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa (7th from L) and Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura (8th from L), pose for a photo as they gather for their second day of talks on the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework initiative in San Francisco on Nov. 14, 2023. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

The members will prepare the final texts of the agreed-upon parts and go through their own domestic processes for approval.

The outcome is a boost to Biden, whose administration has been seeking to expand its engagement in the region where China's growing military and economic clout is raising alarm.

But the outlook remains uncertain, as reaching an agreement on trade, the last pillar, is seen as difficult, as the latest round of ministerial talks earlier this week failed to yield results partly due to divisions over digital trade.

The leaders of the IPEF nations are expected to meet on Thursday on the fringes of a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in San Francisco.

IPEF consists of four pillars but does not include trade benefits such as tariff cuts. It is viewed as an alternative to free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, from which Washington withdrew under Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump.

The countries had previously agreed on supply chain resilience, reflecting the urgency shared by the United States and its peers of cutting dependence on China for key materials, including semiconductors.

In addition to the United States, Japan, Australia and Southeast Asian nations comprise IPEF. India has been involved in negotiations, except over trade. The Indo-Pacific region accounts for about 40 percent of global gross domestic product.

The United States is reluctant to provide new access to its market under the framework, making IPEF less appealing to some countries and raising questions on how the initiative will lead to a further integration of their economies.

The initiative was launched in May 2022 when Biden visited Japan.

Related coverage:

Most aspects of U.S.-led Indo-Pacific economic scheme near completion

No trade deal struck at U.S.-led Indo-Pacific economic meeting