Joining TPP is not in China’s future

By Wei Jianguo Source:Global Times Published: 2017/2/9 20:23:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

US President Donald Trump signed the executive order on January 23 to officially withdraw the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This is no doubt a desperate blow to Abe's administration who dreamed of reviving the trade deal.

After Trump's exit, disappointments remain among some other countries that have scrambled to promote the no-US TPP by appealing to China to participate.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull expressed such sentiment. Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz proposed that TPP countries should have a discussion with China.

Some Chinese experts echoed the hope that China should take the lead instead of the US amongst the 12 Asia-Pacific countries and build a new framework under the TPP.

But will China fulfill their hopes? I could clearly say that it won't.

First, the TPP is primarily a deal designed to isolate and suppress China with its rules on intellectual property protection, government procurement, as well as the place of origin policy.

Second, the rules on trade are considered exclusive among member states as some contents of the negotiation process are even kept secret from the outside world including government officials and industry professionals. Such ruse by the Obama administration was aiming to eliminate the world's second biggest economy from international trade and investment.

Third, the TPP now is a deal that cannot be revived owing to its unequal, unfair and exclusive rules. China will not come to its rescue to please some countries.

Fourth, the biggest challenge facing China amid the global economic complexities is to maintain strategic focus. China will continue to promote the negotiation of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). China is expected to reach the deal on the RCEP this year, and comprehensively implement the One Belt and One Road initiative.

Those countries relying on the TPP like Australia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Chile are advised to abandon their fantasy about the deal.

While the TPP harms China and other countries, the RCEP takes into account different political systems and economic developments in countries around the area, with openness, inclusiveness and benefits for all. China should make full efforts in working with its partners to facilitate the RCEP talks.

A good deal must engage all the players with shared interests through negotiation and common development. Trump found that TPP wouldn't benefit the US. China should consider talking with the Trump administration on a free trade agreement when there is no progress in the Bilateral Investment Treaty between the two countries.

Some believe that the high standard set in the TPP would force China to reform, which I think is one-sided. The TPP does not align with China's economic development goals. Pushing China to join the TPP may cause economic turmoil in China. This also goes against the direction of reform China put forward in its 13th Five Year Plan (2016-20).

The world economy and globalization have deviated from their path and the TPP could make it worse.

Chinese President Xi Jinping defended economic globalization at the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland last month. He quoted the Chinese saying "Honey melons hang from bitter vines; sweet dates grow on thistles and thorns" to ask the world leaders to follow the global trend and fix the structural defects in the path of globalization.

Therefore, China would not consider taking part in the worn-out TPP. Instead, China will focus on globalization and mull over the roadblocks to a healthy global economy.

The author is executive deputy director of China Center for International Economic Exchanges and former vice commerce minister. Follow us on Twitter at @GTopinion

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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