Trade ministers from the 12 member countries of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) have expressed their openness to welcoming additional countries into the pact, provided they meet the agreement's rigorous standards. This announcement came during their meeting on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit held in San Francisco.
The move follows the recent halt of trade negotiations for the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) initiative, a setback for the Biden administration's efforts to promote economic engagement in Asia and provide a counterweight to China's growing influence in the region.
The CPTPP, which succeeded the Trans-Pacific Partnership after former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States in 2017, has been gradually expanding its membership. Notably, this ministerial meeting marked the participation of the United Kingdom, which officially joined the trade bloc in July.
In a joint statement, the CPTPP ministers reiterated their commitment to an open-door policy, stating, "The CPTPP is open to accession requests by economies that are ready to meet the high standards of the agreement and have a demonstrated pattern of complying with trade commitments." However, the statement did not mention specific applicants, including China, Taiwan, Costa Rica, and Ecuador.
The decision to admit new members will be subject to consensus among existing CPTPP countries. Since July, the member nations have been assessing the readiness of aspiring economies to meet the agreement's exacting standards. The statement emphasized that the information collected thus far will not prejudge any outcomes and that the bloc will apply lessons learned from the UK's accession process.
The current CPTPP member countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam. Many of these countries also participate in both APEC and the IPEF initiative.
The willingness of CPTPP members to consider new entrants underscores the importance of regional economic cooperation and trade liberalization, as countries seek to navigate the evolving global trade landscape. The international community will be closely watching developments in the expansion of the CPTPP in the coming months.