CHINA STEPS UP EFFORT TO JOIN TRADE PACT DESIGNED VS BEIJING
China is pushing ahead with behind-the-scenes talks to join a major trade deal that originally aimed to exclude Beijing and cement US economic power and trade ties in the Asia-Pacific region, James Mayger, Yujing Liu, Ana Monteiro and Samson Ellis reported for Bloomberg News.
Officials from Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, and possibly other nations have held technical talks with Chinese counterparts on details of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
That’s according to officials from four member countries with knowledge of the discussions, who asked not to be named as they weren’t authorized to comment on the talks.
China announced in February it had held informal talks with some of the members, but didn’t release details. It’s not clear how far China has progressed in preparing an application, but the people see Beijing as seriously interested in joining, with multiple officials pointing to comments last year from President Xi Jinping as an indication of intent.
China “would not have made a statement about joining TPP if they had not already studied this menu and said, ‘actually, we’re happy with that,’” said Deborah Elms, founder and executive director of the Asian Trade Center in Singapore.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was envisioned by the US as an economic bloc to balance China’s growing power, with then-President Barack Obama saying in 2016 that the US, not China, should write the regional rules of trade.
His successor Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in 2017, with Japan leading the revised and renamed pact to a successful conclusion the following year.
Beijing has “done a lot of preliminary work and made some informal contacts,” Commerce Minister Wang Wentao said in early March.
“We’re stepping up efforts in this area.” The ministry did not respond to a request for more information on the progress of talks.