Free Trade Zones

China seeks to join US-rejected Pacific Trade Pact


On Thursday, China’s Commerce Ministry said it had submitted an application to join a Pacific Trade Pact designed in part to counter its own influence.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), formerly known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), is a trade agreement between 11 countries bordering the Pacific Ocean and is one of the largest free zones. exchange in the world.

The CPTPP was sealed between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam in January 2018 and entered into force in December of the same year.

Joining the pact requires unanimous approval from each of the 11 member states, which can make China‘s entry uncertain. Several of them have strained relations with Beijing over territorial disputes while others view with concern its growing military and economic power.

China’s interest in joining the CPTPP is not new. Kyodo News reports that President Xi Jinping expressed interest in November 2020 and more recently China ratified a separate free trade agreement called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). RCEP is the world’s largest trading bloc and already has a few CPTPP members, including Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Chinese Trade Minister Wang Wentao has reportedly spoken on the phone to discuss the necessary procedures with Damien O’Connor, New Zealand Trade Minister. Japan insisted that adherence to strict rules would be a prerequisite for China’s entry into accession negotiations.

It’s somewhat ironic of China’s seeking to become a member of a trade alliance designed to counter its reach. However, his candidacy can be seen as a way not to be isolated in the region by the United States.

Tensions between China and the United States have soared in recent months Photo: AFP / Bijou SAMAD

The United States initially intended to join the CPTPP during the administration of former President Barack Obama. Donald Trump’s victory in November 2016 ended any prospect of the United States joining the CPTPP due to Trump’s vehement campaign against international trade agreements which he says disadvantages American workers and businesses.

One of Trump’s first decrees when he took office was to withdraw the United States from the deal.

President Joe Biden has signaled no intention of joining the CPTPP, but he has made competition with China the focus of his foreign policy since taking office. Last week, Biden spoke to Xi for the first time and discussed areas where their interests align and “areas where our interests, values ​​and perspectives diverge.”

On Wednesday, the United States announced with the United Kingdom and Australia a new agreement to develop an Australian nuclear submarine fleet. China was not mentioned in the announcement, but Beijing criticized the move as an “extremely irresponsible” threat to stability in the region.