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China seeks to join Trans-Pacific Transnational Trade Pact to increase economic influence

China seeks to join Trans-Pacific Transnational Trade Pact to increase economic influence

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China has submitted an application to participate in the comprehensive and progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) agreement, the Ministry of Commerce said, as the world’s second largest economy appears to be strengthening its influence on trade.

Trade Minister Wang Wentao submitted China’s application to join the free trade agreement in a letter to New Zealand’s Trade Minister Damien O’Connor, the Chinese ministry said in a statement late Thursday.

CPTPP was signed by 11 countries, including Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan and New Zealand in 2018.
Before that, it became known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and was seen as an important economic counterweight to China’s regional influence.

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Japan, the CPTPP’s president this year, said it would consult with member states to respond to China’s request, but stopped signaling a timeline for doing so.

“Japan believes it is necessary to determine whether China, which has submitted a request to participate in TPP-11, is ready to meet its extremely high standards,” Japanese Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters on Friday.

The TPP was central to former US President Barack Obama’s strategic focal point for Asia, but his successor, Donald Trump, withdrew the United States from the pact in 2017. Accession to the CPTPP would be a major boost for China following the signing of the 15-nation Regionally Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Free Trade Agreement last year.

Beijing has lobbied for inclusion in the pact, including by emphasizing that the Chinese and Australian economies have enormous potential for cooperation. However, relations between the two countries have become sour.

Britain began negotiations in June to conclude the trade pact, while Thailand has also signaled interest in joining it.

Wang and O’Connor held a conference call to discuss the next steps after China’s application, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said.

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