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China will apply to join the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement to strengthen international cooperation on digital regulation, President Xi Jinping said.
The pact known as DEPA currently covers Singapore, New Zealand and Chile, while Canada has expressed an interest to join it.
“China attaches great importance to international cooperation on the digital economy,” Xi said in a virtual speech during the Group of 20 leaders’ summit in Rome. “China stands ready to work with all parties for the healthy and orderly development of the digital economy.”
White House officials are discussing proposals for a digital trade agreement covering Indo-Pacific economies as the administration seeks ways to check China’s influence in the region, people familiar with the plans said in July. Advocates for such an accord had suggested that it could draw on existing arrangements in the region, including DEPA.
It’s unclear as yet what China’s planned application to DEPA would mean for the U.S.’s proposal.
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In September, China submitted a formal letter to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade treaty that was once pushed by Washington as a way to exclude Beijing. Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal in 2017, but it concluded successfully in 2018 with 11 signatories that have a combined economic value worth about 13% of global gross domestic product.
A number of members of Congress have been calling for the U.S. to either rejoin the CPTPP or to be more active on trade diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific region.
Xi called on countries to discuss and develop international rules for digital governance that respect the interests of all sides, and foster an open, just and non-discriminatory environment for digital development.
China has previously proposed a set of rules designed to prevent foreign governments from acquiring data stored locally, part of its attempts to set global standards for the digital sphere. At the same time, the U.S. has also intensified its effort to restrict Chinese companies’ access to the private data of Americans, which could reshape the global economy for decades to come.
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