China expresses hesitant support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership

October 6, 2015, 10:24 AM UTC
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting with leaders from the Trans-Pacific Partnership at the US Embassy in Beijing on November 10, 2014 in Beijing. The TPP was agreed upon with 11 other Pacific Rim nations.
Photograph by Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images

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By Nash Jenkins @pnashsenkins

Though China is notably absent from its list of signatories, officials in Beijing have hesitantly embraced Monday’s ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a historical trade deal that will link 40% of the global economy, the BBC reported.

“China hopes the TPP pact and other free trade arrangements in the region can boost each other and contribute to the Asia-Pacific’s trade, investment and economic growth,” China’s Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on Tuesday cited by China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency.

The TPP, finally approved in Atlanta on Monday after some seven years of negotiations, has been called the largest regional trade agreement in history. It will reduce tariffs on a large number of products and resources in an effort to link and strengthen the economies of global stalwarts like the U.S. and Japan as well as the fledgling markets of countries like Vietnam. Twelve countries signed onto the agreement — the U.S., Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore and Brunei — but China, Asia’s economic heavyweight, was not among them. Some have described the deal as a deliberate counterbalance to China’s economic dominance across the Pacific, with U.S. President Barack Obama himself saying in a statement that “we can’t let countries like China write the rules of the global economy.”

Though Beijing has announced no plans to consider joining the TPP, it says it is “open to any mechanism that follows rules of the World Trade Organization and can boost the economic integration of the Asia-Pacific,” according to Tuesday’s statement.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a vocal proponent of the deal during its negotiation stages, said that the addition of China to the pact “would contribute largely to our nation’s security and Asia-Pacific regional stability.”