China applies to join Pacific trade pact

Accession to the CPTPP would be a major boost for China following the signing of the 15-nation...
Accession to the CPTPP would be a major boost for China following the signing of the 15-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership free trade agreement last year. Photo: Getty Images
China has filed an application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the country's commerce ministry says, as the world's second-biggest economy looks to bolster its clout in trade.

Commerce Minister Wang Wentao on Thursday 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.

The CPTPP was signed by 11 countries in 2018. They are: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Before that, it was known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and seen as an important economic counterweight to China's regional influence.

It was central to then-US President Barack Obama's strategic pivot to 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 Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade agreement last year.

Beijing has lobbied for its inclusion in the pact, including by highlighting that the Chinese and Australian economies have enormous potential for cooperation.

However, relations between the two countries have soured.

Britain and Thailand have also signalled interest in joining the CPTPP.

Wang and O'Connor held a telephone conference to discuss the next steps following China's application, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said.

On Thursday, Australia, the United States and Britain announced they had formed a security pact (AUKUS).

The move comes as Washington and its allies are looking for ways to push back against China's growing power and influence, particularly its military build-up, pressure on Taiwan and deployments in the contested South China Sea.

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