TPP is not ‘play’ against China

China join­ing pact would im­prove world, of­fi­cial says

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By CHEN WEIHUA in Wash­ing­ton chen­wei­hua@ chi­nadai­

A se­nior US of­fi­cial said on Tues­day that the world would be a bet­ter place if China were will­ing to meet the high stan­dards of the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship (TPP), and that the agree­ment led by the US isn’t an “anti-China strate­gic play’’.

“Now I said a num­ber of times that the world would be a bet­ter place by far if China were able to, and will­ing to meet the very high stan­dards of TPP, but I think the broad im­pact on the re­gion and on China is go­ing to drive a vir­tu­ous cy­cle of bet­ter reg­u­la­tory prac­tices, greater trans­parency, open­ness of the In­ter­net. Th­ese fac­tors are mo­ti­va­tors,” said Daniel Rus­sel, US as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state for East Asian and Pa­cific Af­fairs.

The 12 Asia-Pa­cific Rim coun­tries, which ac­count for nearly 40 per­cent of the global econ­omy, reached an agree­ment on TPP on Oct 5 af­ter seven years of ne­go­ti­a­tions. China was not in­cluded in the TPP talks.

Rus­sel said the 12 coun­tries made a de­ci­sion early on to work to­gether to raise stan­dards and lower bar­ri­ers. He said there is no ex­clu­sion here. “It is also very much not an anti-China strate­gic play,” Rus­sel told a meet­ing at the At­lantic Coun­cil in Wash­ing­ton.

He said that he be­lieves in the near term the high stan­dards es­tab­lished by the agree­ment will force all coun­tries, whether part­ners in TPP or not, to up their game. Rus­sel also said that what TPP gives to mem­ber coun­tries is what all peo­ple, in­clud­ing Chi­nese peo­ple, want.

China’s views about TPP have evolved over the years with many re­gard­ing it as a US con­spir­acy to con­tain a ris­ing China a few years ago, to a more open-minded pos­ture of ex­press­ing in­ter­est in the trade agree­ment.

China and 15 other coun­tries in the re­gion have been pur­su­ing the free trade agree­ment known as Re­gional Com­pre­hen­sive Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship (RCEP), which does not in­clude the US.

The con­clu­sion of TPP has pushed the 16 RCEP mem­ber coun­tries to fi­nally agree two weeks ago in Seoul to elim­i­nate tar­iffs on 65 per­cent of trade in goods among them. The agree­ment is ex­pected to be signed dur­ing the ASEAN lead­ers’ sum­mit to be held in Malaysia next month and en­forced in 2016.

US Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Michael Fro­man said on Tues­day that China has fol­lowed TPP very closely. “We kept them very much up to date about the ne­go­ti­a­tions,” he said.

But he said when the Chi­nese raised ques­tions about TPP, the US said “let’s fo­cus on the Bi­lat­eral In­vest­ment Treaty (BIT).” He de­scribed BIT as some kind of in­vest­ment chap­ter of TPP.

Pres­i­dents Xi Jin­ping and Barack Obama both pledged to speed up the BIT ne­go­ti­a­tions when they met in Bei­jing last Novem­ber and in Wash­ing­ton last month.

“We are mak­ing good progress on those is­sues, but we still have way to go to achieve that high stan­dard agree­ment,” Fro­man said.

An Oct 23 re­port by the Amer­i­can Cham­ber of Com­merce in China urged China to speed up re­forms and se­cure BIT.

He Yafei, vice-min­is­ter of the Over­seas Chi­nese Af­fairs Of­fice of the State Coun­cil and a former vice for­eign min­is­ter, de­scribed TPP as both a chal­lenge and op­por­tu­nity for China as it comes at a crit­i­cal mo­ment when China tries to en­gage more deeply and widely in global gov­er­nance.

“The TPP could even pro­vide im­pe­tus for China’s ef­forts to deepen its eco­nomic re­forms,” he wrote on the China-US Fo­cus web­site.

We are mak­ing good progress on those is­sues, but we still have a way to go to achieve that high stan­dard agree­ment.”

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