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China moves to join CPTPP trade agreement

China has submitted application for joining the CPTPP trade pact, in its latest effort to expand economic influence on global trade.
China has submitted application for joining the CPTPP trade pact, in its latest effort to expand economic influence on global trade.

In a move to cement its leadership in global trade, China has filed an application to join the membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao submitted a written request to join the CPTPP trade agreement to New Zealand’s Minister for Trade and Export Growth, Damien O’Connor.

As per the statement released, both the parties held a telephone conference to discuss the next steps following China’s application on Thursday.

While New Zealand acts as the depositary for the region’s largest free-trade bloc, consent from all 11 members is necessary to join. The current 11 members of the trade pact are Japan, Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile, Peru and Malaysia.

The CPTPP trade pact became effective in December 2018. Earlier known as Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the trade pact was originally started by the US under the Obama Administration, aimed at containing China’s rising influence in the region. In 2017, however, the US withdrew from the multilateral regional trade pact under the presidency of Donald Trump. There have been no signs of the US rejoining the pact under the Biden administration.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom and Thailand have also signalled interest in joining the CPTPP trade agreement and have begun negotiations.

Is China’s move putting the US under pressure?

Chinese President Xi Jinping had shown interest in joining the geographically more far-reaching pact last year. As per experts, China’s inclusion in the CPTPP trade agreement would yield large economic benefits and regional influence to the nation.

Despite sour geopolitical relations between the two nations, China has lobbied the Australian government for its support to join the CPTPP trade agreement. As per media reports, China has also reached out to other nations like Malaysia for talks.

In early September, Beijing’s embassy in Canberra wrote in a submission to an Australian parliament that, “China is committed to building a community with a shared future for mankind, and stands ready to work together with all the other parties to promote globalisation and regional economic integration.”

In 2020, the world’s second-biggest economy also joined the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade agreement, the 15-member trade pact that includes Southeast Asia, to put global trade and economic cooperation back on track.

According to international affairs analysts, China’s move on joining the CPTPP trade agreement will put overwhelming pressure on the US to step up its economic and trade engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.