MENA NEWS Top of the Agenda : Red China Applies to Join Trade Pact Originally Meant to Counter Its Influence

In a bid to increase its economic clout in the Pacific, China filed an application (SCMP) to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). U.S. President Barack Obama had originally promoted the pact as a way to counter China, but President Donald Trump formally withdrew the United States from the agreement in 2017.

Tensions between China and CPTPP member Australia have risen in recent months, and the pact requires unanimous consent to join. It has stricter requirements (FT) than another Asia-Pacific trade pact signed last year, and Canberra and Tokyo stressed these requirements (Kyodo) after the news of Beijing’s application. The United Kingdom (UK) applied to join the pact in February.


“China wants to get [the] ball rolling in negotiations before the UK joins the pact because vetoes on China joining will become more of a threat if the UK is in while Beijing is out,” the Institute for China-America Studies’ Sourabh Gupta tells the South China Morning Post.

“China probably won’t get into CPTPP anytime soon, but news of its formal application coming a day after the AUKUS announcement neatly underscores the continuing rift in how Washington and Beijing conceive of ‘competition’ in Asia,” the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Ankit Panda tweets.

This Backgrounder looks at how the CPTPP has evolved.