Trade experts have indicated that China is well-positioned to fulfill the standards set by the Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). This assessment brings into focus the political considerations that member nations must address regarding Beijing's potential inclusion in the pact.
Britain's recent accession to the CPTPP has initiated a period of evaluation for other aspiring members, including China, Taiwan, Ukraine, Costa Rica, Uruguay, and Ecuador. The order of consideration for these applications remains undetermined.
The origins of the CPTPP trace back to the U.S.-endorsed Trans-Pacific Partnership, established in part to balance China's economic ascent. Although the U.S. later withdrew its participation, current members comprise close U.S. allies like Japan, Australia, and Canada.
Analysts suggest that China's eagerness to join the CPTPP stems from its pursuit of sustained economic growth and the potential domestic reforms the agreement could stimulate.
Technical Requirements of the CPTPP
The CPTPP mandates the significant reduction or complete elimination of tariffs, strong commitments to open services and investment markets, and specific rules around competition, intellectual property (IP) rights, and protections for foreign entities.
Concerns have been raised about China's compatibility with these requirements due to the subsidies offered to its state-owned enterprises and recent tightening of its data sovereignty laws. However, China's past efforts in liberalizing trade during its accession to the World Trade Organization highlight its capability to adapt.
The acceptance of new members into the CPTPP requires unanimous approval by existing members. Recent economic tensions, such as trade restrictions between China and Australia, complicate these political decisions. Additionally, statements condemning economic coercion, seemingly directed at China, have been signed by several member countries, further emphasizing the geopolitical weight of the decision.
Simultaneously, the prospect of the U.S. rejoining the CPTPP in the future introduces another layer of complexity. There are concerns that China, if allowed entry, might oppose a U.S. bid to return to the pact.
China's bid to join the CPTPP is not the sole political challenge facing the pact. Taiwan's application is another point of contention, especially given China's stance against it.
As discussions continue, CPTPP members will need to arrive at a collective decision, keeping in mind the broader implications for global trade and diplomacy.