US-led TPP incomplete without China
China’s Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said Wednesday that a Washington-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is incomplete without China, although Beijing is aware that the US would like to keep the TPP closed to its current members.
“For TPP, frankly speaking, there have been internal debates within both United States and Chinese government. But now our position is clear. As China becomes more open, it’s very important for us to be integrated into the global trade system with high standard,” Zhu saidduring his address at the Peterson Institute of International Economics in Washington DC.
Despite resistance in some countries, US President Barack Obama has said TPP negotiations are in full swing and he hoped to announce the agreement during his trip to Asia in mid-November. However, disagreements still linger over Japanese tariffs on agricultural imports.
“Japan made a flexible proposal, but we weren’t able to make further progress. Further negotiations are undecided,” Japan’s Trade Minister Akira Amari said last month.
Japan wants to protect important sectors like rice, wheat, sugar, dairy products, beef and pork, but the US has insisted on full access to the Japanese market for its agricultural goods.
The four-year-old TPP talks, now involving 12 nations, are aimed at establishing a free-trade bloc that would encompass 800 million people, about a third of world trade and nearly 40 per cent of the global economy.
“We’re organising trade relations with countries other than China so that China starts feeling more pressure about meeting basic international standards,” Obama said referring to the TPP in a presidential debate in 2012.
Apart from the US and Japan, the TPP negotiations also involve Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Washington’s support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is seen aligned with its “pivot to Asia” strategy.
A major point of scepticism, some analysts say, is that the TPP appears to have a political agenda which the US has not yet made clear.
Some countries are troubled that the TPP could be used to rebalance Asia against China’s rising influence.
China has instead been backing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations which would include all 10 ASEAN member states and the six FTA partners, namely China, Japan, South Korea, India, New Zealand and Australia, at the initial stage.
Meanwhile, Chinese officials said in May this year that Beijing has proposed studying the feasibility of a mammoth free-trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific region in addition to the contesting FTA’s, the US-led TPP and the China-led RCEP.
“We made a proposal to establish a working group to study the feasibility of a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific, and we have received responses from many members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum,” said Wang Shouwen, assistant Commerce Minister.
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