context: As trade exclusion risks loom large, domestic experts are making a strong case for China’s accession to CPTPP, building justification and momentum for the government to make a move.

As CPTPP members get together on 19 January 2019 to discuss expansion of membership, experts urge Beijing to consider applying.

Wang Yaohui 王辉耀 Center for China and Globalisation director says the time is right to join CPTPP

  • accession before the US can save China the trouble of negotiating with the US
  • the US might include provisions targeting China in the upcoming US-Japan bilateral trade treaty, excluding China from joining CPTPP

Wang lists various reasons for joining

  • its emphasis on IPR protection and service trade can benefit China’s growing service sector and strengthen advantages in e-commerce and information technology
  • it can expand overseas markets for Chinese firms, address structural conflicts with the US, and strengthen third-party market cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative

Tu Xinquan 屠新泉 UIBE China Institute for WTO Studies dean says that CPTPP accession can demonstrate China’s support for economic globalisation and exert its influence on WTO reform as opponents such as Brazil, India and South Africa are excluded.

The biggest challenge would be standards for state-owned enterprises, e-commerce and investment, but there’s still room for negotiation, says Tu, citing cases of Vietnam and Malaysia which both have a big state sector.

China could reach CPTPP standards with pressure from the 90-day negotiation with the US, predicts Chen Fengying 陈凤英 China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations World Economy Institute director. China has a say in the negotiation, considering its 50 percent contribution to the Asian economy, says Chen, as many CPTPP members would welcome new market opportunities.

Wang says entry depends on China’s commitment and negotiations with Japan, estimating that China will likely join in two to six years.