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While there is likely to be political resistance to China joining due to rising security fears in the region and Beijing’s history of engaging in economic coercion, its economic might make it an attractive member for many in the bloc.
Several members, particularly Australia and Canada, are currently involved in diplomatic stand-offs with China over trade and other issues including the detention of two Canadian citizens. Britain has also sought to join.
China’s relationship with Vietnam, another member, is also tense due to Beijing’s territorial claims in its waters. It can only join with approval from all 11 members.
David Henig, a trade expert at London-based think-tank the European Centre for International Political Economy, said China would have trouble meeting some of the criteria of the trade pact, including obligations around the behaviour of state-owned enterprises.
He said there was likely to be pushback from the United States, while there could also be problems for some other members, although the economic upside was significant. “In large part China’s application to join CPTPP is a direct consequence of US failure to deliver the TPP/TTIP architecture planned under Obama,” he tweeted.
Its current members are Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile, Peru and Malaysia. China last week wrote to a parliamentary inquiry arguing why it should be allowed to join the trade bloc. Britain has also said it would apply to join the bloc.
The agreement removes most tariffs between Australia and other member countries. There has been so sign of the Biden administration wanting to rejoin the group. Donald Trump withdrew shortly after he became president in 2017.