China Applies To Join The Trade Pact Intended To Exclude It

CHINA HAS APPLIED to join the regional trade pact intended to counter its growing political and commercial influence.

The Commerce Department has confirmed it has lodged China’s application to become a member of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. This is the 11-nation successor to the Trans-Pacific Partnership signed on to by the United States as part of the Obama administration’s ‘Asia pivot’ but from which former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States as one of his first acts in office.

Beijing views deepening trade and investment ties in the region as a bulwark against the growing unified front being shown against it by the United States and its closest allies, as evidenced by the newly announced AUKUS security agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The success of the application is far from assured. For one, existing members have to be unanimous in agreement to admit new members, which will come down to political decisions.

On more technical issues, there will be questions about whether China’s state subsidies, cross-border data transfer regime and labour practices comply with the pact’s standards, which were originally drafted to be difficult for China to meet.

These requirements are more stringent than for the rival regional trade pact that China leads, the 15-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. RCEP is just one of several regional institutional arrangements with overlapping memberships (see diagram above).

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