TPP is not ‘play’ against China
China joining pact would improve world, official says
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.”