JAPAN – ASIA Tokyo to expand Obama's free trade agreement (with China going along) – AsiaNews

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The CPPTP takes over from the Trans-Pacific Partnership signed by the former US president and rejected by Donald Trump. China might join the pact, but any US and Taiwanese participation will likely hinder it.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) – The Japanese government will seek to expand the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the free trade agreement that takes over from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) of former US President Barack Obama .

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga made the announcement in a pre-recorded video message delivered at the virtual APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) CEO dialogues.

In addition to Japan, the pact includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. China, Great Britain, South Korea and Taiwan have shown the greatest interest in the CPPTP as well.

The CPPTP emerged after the collapse of the TPP. The latter was signed in 2016 and represented 40 per cent of world trade. The United States was a party to the trade deal. For the Obama administration, it was a soft-power tool to contain China’s rise, but President Donald Trump rejected it early on in his term of office.

Prime Minister Suga’s goal is to create a large free trade area in the Asia-Pacific region. the CPPTP is a part of this plan, along with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Signed on 15 November by the 10 ASEAN countries (Association of Southeast Asian Countries), plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, the RCEP is the largest multilateral trade agreement in the world with about 30 per cent of world GDP and population.

A spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said yesterday that his country was open to the idea of ​​joining the CPPTP.

The issue could be addressed next week during a meeting in Tokyo between the Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

For several observers, China’s participation in the pact is being held back by the possible return of the United States.

President-elect Joe Biden said he was ready to renegotiate Washington’s return to the (new) TPP, a position that has met some opposition from protectionist sectors in the Democratic Party.

However, China is expected to stay out if Japan invites Taiwan. Beijing considers the island a “rebel province”, and prevents its participation in international organisations and fora since this would represent diplomatic recognition.