China considers joining CPTPP in latest move to boost worldwide liberalization of trade
China's signaling of its interest in joining the Comprehensive and
Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership indicates the strong
resolve of its top leadership to deepen reform and pursue opening-up at
a higher level, analysts said.
They also said the completion in principle on Wednesday of
negotiations on a comprehensive agreement on investment between China
and the European Union could mark a step closer toward China joining the
The country has expressed its open attitude to joining the free trade
agreement, signed among 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region in
2018, after having signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic
Partnership with 14 participating nations in mid-November.
China's annual tone-setting Central Economic Work Conference in
December stressed the need to actively consider CPTPP membership as part
of efforts to move forward with reform and opening-up across the board.
President Xi Jinping also made a similar pledge at the 27th
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum's Economic Leaders' Meeting,
held via video link, on Nov 20. China's interest in joining the trade
deal was announced as early as May, when Premier Li Keqiang held a news
conference at the closing of the annual National People's Congress
Cui Fan, an international trade professor at the University of
International Business and Economics in Beijing, said the conclusion of
the China-EU investment deal negotiations could bring China a step
closer to joining the CPTPP, as the deal with the EU covers provisions
also emphasized by the CPTPP, including labor rights issues and
State-owned enterprises' behavior.
"It showed that China has adopted a flexible stance on negotiations
in those areas that adheres to market principles and a people-centered
philosophy," he said.
He said CPTPP membership would match China's development interests,
given China's rapid economic growth and its close economic and trade
ties with Asia-Pacific economies, even though some provisions in the
trade pact would pose some challenges during the accession process.
China's display of interest in the trade deal epitomizes its
readiness to promote trade and investment liberalization and
facilitation and economic globalization, he added.
"It will also help China maintain dialogue and consultation with its
partners, build up consensus and work toward the establishment of a free
trade area of the Asia-Pacific," he said.
Wang Huiyao, president of the Center for China and Globalization, a
nongovernmental think tank based in Beijing, said the reaching of the
China-EU investment deal will provide a strong impetus for China's
accession to the CPTPP.
Joining the CPTPP would mean that China must adopt practices in
keeping with international standards in government procurement,
subsidies, the behavior of SOEs and labor, he said.
"China will raise its standards in multiple areas and conduct reform
in a number of sectors that are not in line with international practices
after the investment deal with the EU, which will help with China
joining the CPTPP," he said.
China's enhanced intellectual property rights protection efforts in
recent years, including the implementation of the Foreign Investment Law
and the first phase of the US-China trade agreement, will lay a solid
foundation, he said.
"If China joins the pact, that would be of similar importance, both
to itself and to the world, as joining the World Trade Organization was
almost 20 years ago," he said.
The State Council, China's Cabinet, held two executive meetings in
November and December after the signing of the RCEP, laying out a number
of domestic reform measures to implement arrangements outlined in the
world's largest trade deal.
As part of efforts to implement the RCEP, China will further open up
services sectors in research and development, consulting and management
and services related to the manufacturing sector and senior care, and
apply higher standards in intellectual property protection and
The statements made by China's leadership about joining the CPTPP are
an indicator of the firm resolve of the country to deepen reform and
take opening-up forward, said Su Qingyi, a researcher on world economics
and politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"The joining of the CPTPP, just like the RCEP, will further spur
domestic reform and open the country wider to foreign investment. It
will also enable the nation to set its sights on global standards in
areas such as goods, services and investment and narrow the gaps," he
He said the CPTPP could be the free-trade pact with the highest
standards in the next 15 to 20 years, and most of its rules are in
keeping with the direction of China's reform and opening-up.
"In the long term, China should regard CPTPP membership as a policy priority," he said.
Liu Ying, a researcher with the Chongyang Institute for Financial
Studies at Renmin University of China, said joining the CPTPP would be
an important step in fostering a new development paradigm in which the
domestic market is the mainstay and the domestic and international
markets reinforce each other.r.
Since the CPTPP covers a patchwork of provisions, the country must
move forward with across-the-board reform of SOEs and strive to adapt to
multilateral trading rule frameworks, she said.
A report released by the World Bank on Dec 23 also highlighted the
significance for China of joining the CPTPP, saying that the move "could
provide an anchor for additional reforms, as China's WTO accession did
almost 20 years ago".