China may be coming around to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement the United States is currently negotiating, and the Asian nation could collaborate on the trade pact in one form or another.
Zhang Jianping, director of the department of international economic cooperation at the Institute for International Economic Research under the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said, “We are very happy to see that those TPP members can reach a consensus – because we think the TPP will be a possible approach for promoting Asia-Pacific economic integration,” China Daily reported.
TPP cleared one hurdle in May when the Senate passed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), the fast-track bill that will clear the way for the president to finalize TPP. The House approved TPA Friday, but rejected Trade Adjustment Assistance—a key element of the bill necessary for TPA to move forward.
The United States is negotiating the proposed TPP regional trade deal with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Earlier this month, President Obama said China was already “putting out feelers” about possibly participating in the trade program, and that whether or not they opt to join, they will still have to follow the global rules of trade that come under TPP, like enforceable labor and environmental standards and better intellectual property protections.
While Zhang noted that TPP could be a possible pathway to the Beijing-backed Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP)—a deal some consider rival to the TPP and an attempt by China to maintain a more proactive role in economic integration efforts—he said abiding by TPP’s rules could make countries like China and Indonesia uncomfortable as the pact’s high standards and strict regulations might surpass the development stage for some developing economies in the region, China Daily reported.
Now the country is working to promote the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), something Zhang said developing economies might prefer. The RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries and the six nations ASEAN has existing FTAs with (Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).
Zhang acknowledged that China needs to reform and open up to meet TPP’s high standards and said that the country is making an effort to promote and create a regional trade network.
According to China Daily, Zhang said the third possible path to the FTAAP will be for the TPP and RCEP to work together to create a new deal.