10/18/2022, 13.51
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No consensus on Beijing's entry into the CPTPP trade bloc (wanted by Obama)

Singapore's premier reveals. The grand free trade agreement, boycotted by Trump, was meant to be anti-Chinese. Negotiations with Great Britain are ongoing. China's accession would exclude the US and Taiwan.


Beijing (AsiaNews) - Member countries of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) have not reached consensus for China's entry, according to a statement given today by Singapore Premier Lee Hsien Loong, on a visit to Australia. The free trade agreement is the successor to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) wanted by former US President Barack Obama to counter Beijing's geopolitical rise.

According to Lee, however, China has what it takes to meet the conditions of the trade bloc. After the US withdrawal in 2017, desired by Trump, Japan, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam are part of the CPTPP.

To to admitted as a member, an applicant state must obtain the approval of all its members. The arrangement removed 95% of the tariff barriers between the participants. Japan, the majority member following the US exit, and Australia have expressed strong doubts that China can meet the demands on free trade given the opaque and dirigiste nature of the Chinese economic system is certainly not in line with the high standards of the CPTPP.

Canberra puts the Chinese lifting of a series of trade sanctions against Australian exports as a precondition, a position Lee said he understands. Japan also fears that China's accession will prevent a possible future rethink by Washington on the pact.

The discussion is sensitive. Beijing claims to have the support of Malaysia and Vietnam, as well as Singapore. Brunei and New Zealand would not be opposed either. The CPTPP nations are stalling, using the ongoing negotiations with Great Britain as an excuse.

In order not to upset the Chinese, the trade bloc is keeping Taiwan's application, which is mainly advocated by Tokyo, on hold. Taipei submitted its application in September 2021, six days after China: given current tensions, a green light for one would rule out the other. Beijing considers Taiwan a 'rebel' province; on 16 October, in his report to the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping reiterated that his country is ready to retake the island by force if necessary.

Several CPTPP nations are also part of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the world's largest free trade agreement, dominated by China. Signed in November 2020 by the 10 Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, the arrangement covers about 30% of global GDP and population. In terms of market openness, however, the RCEP falls far short of the levels set out in the CPTPP or the free trade agreements signed by the EU with Japan, Vietnam and Singapore.

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