China may have ‘missed the boat’ on TPP trade negotiations
China may have missed the chance to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership as negotiators are close to ending the talks and may close the door to a newcomer to avoid any delays, experts said on Friday.
Meanwhile, the nation is being urged to make a proposal during the 2014 Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. That is, to establish an Asia- Pacific free trade agreement integrating the advanced TPP and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which covers developing economies.
“When it’s ready, China should join the TPP negotiations. But it’s surely too late now,” Masahiro Kawai, dean and the chief executive officer of the Asian Development Bank Institute, told the Economic Integration of the AsiaPacific Region Outlook: RCEP & TPP International Forum.
East Asia is considered the most dynamic area in terms of global economic growth. In addition to the United Statesled TPP, which covers 12 countries, the RCEP is in progress covering 16 economies.
Some countries are involved with negotiations for both pacts. For example, South Korea expressed interest in the TPP after Japan joined the TPP negotiations in July.
US Trade Representative Michael Froman said on Nov 29 that the US welcomed South Korea’s expression of interest in joining the TPP, but he added that the possible entry of any new country would be expected to occur after the negotiations among the current members concluded.
“China’s entry into the TPP depends on whether the US really welcomes China,” said Chen Deming, chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits and former commerce minister.
“South Korea can be part of the TPP. As for China, the issue will be very, very difficult,” said Peter A. Petri, a researcher at the International Business School of Brandeis University in the US.
He added that the TPP is likely to be completed early next year.
“In the coming period, global trade and investment rules will be first forged in regions. These rules will be formulated to high standards and favor developed economies.
“The rules then will be expanded into multilateral ones,” Chen said.
“China should try to join in all the possible regional or multilateral trade agreements at an early stage, which will in turn push forward domestic reforms and help our country flourish in the coming decades.
“We will be at a disadvantageous position if we are forced to accept the completed pacts during their expansion into multilateral ones,” he added.
Chen said that China does have an opportunity, as the 2014 APEC meeting is going to be held in Beijing. It was held in Shanghai in 2001.
“China should actively put forward the proposal to build up an Asia-Pacific FTA during the meeting and effectively advance the economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region, making use of the TPP and the RCEP,” Chen said.
The TPP will bring about benefits of $300 billion a year and the RCEP will produce benefits of $600 billion a year, but a pact covering all the AsiaPacific economies, including the 21 members of the APEC, will yield benefits of $2 trillion a year, said Petri.
East Asian economies established 26 free trade pacts in the past two decades, accounting for 30 percent of the world’s total.
Eighty percent of these pacts were formulated in the past decade, according to Zhang Shaogang, minister-counselor of the Department of International Trade and Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Commerce.
“Various free trade pacts improved the integration of economic and value chains in the region, but also caused some problems for the participants.
“The construction of the TPP and RCEP will provide the foundation for merging the FTAs in the Asia-Pacific region,” Zhang said.
“We never believed that the tracks of the TPP and RCEP were mutually exclusive. They reflect different appeals of economies at different development phases, and they can be advanced in parallel and have positive interactions,” he added.
“When conditions are ripe, we will join [the TPP] or be invited into it,” said Pei Changhong, director of the Institute of Economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.