China would consider joining a free-trade pact once championed by the US, but abandoned by US President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) said on Friday, as Beijing increasingly seeks to influence the global rules of commerce.
The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is an updated version of a giant deal originally backed by former US president Barack Obama as an effort to counter China’s rising influence in Asia.
Trump pulled out of it after winning the presidency in 2016 as he turned away from what he viewed as unfavorable multilateral deals, but 11 countries eventually agreed to sign the new version.
Addressing an APEC summit, Xi said the grouping “must continue to promote regional economic integration and establish an Asia-Pacific free-trade zone at an early date.”
China “will actively consider joining” the CPTPP, he said, according to Chinese state media.
Trump attended this year’s virtual summit, the first time he has participated since 2017, as he continues to challenge his election defeat to US president-elect Joe Biden.
Xi’s comments came just days after Beijing and 14 other countries signed what would be the world’s biggest trade deal, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
Taiwan has expressed an interest in joining the CPTPP, as it would be unlikely to gain membership in the China-dominated Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
Singapore-based international trade expert Deborah Elms said that if China did join the trade pact, it might encourage others to follow.
“If Xi’s statement of interest is pushed forward in the coming weeks and months, it will, of course, lead to a lot of questions from current members, prospective members and others that are not thinking of CPTPP membership at all,” said Elms, executive director of the Asian Trade Centre.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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