WHY DO CHINA AND THE UK WANT TO JOIN THE CPTPP?
The UK formally applied to join the Comprehensive & Progress Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) on 2 February, a move that made headlines across the UK media. China then followed suit in September.
It was Beijing’s application, in particular, that caught analysts by surprise: The bloc finds its origins in having been conceptualised by the Obama administration leadership as a way of countering China’s increasing economic might in the Asia-Pacific region. President Donald Trump subsequently pulled the US out of what was then known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, but the 11 remaining member states continued negotiations and sought to create a framework that would bring 13.4% of global GDP under one set of rules. They were successful, and the renamed CPTPP is now routinely held up by trade policy analysts as some of the most liberal and forward-thinking trade policy on offer.
As a result, membership of the CPTPP has become so attractive that even China is throwing its hat into the ring. Analysts have mostly put Beijing’s motivation for wanting to join the bloc down to the fact that its accession requirements could provide fresh impetus for economic reform at home, rather than its desire to control the bloc’s apparent anti-China or anti-state capitalism sentiment from the inside.
The primary motivation for the CPTPP’s existing members for joining has typically been either that membership can raise their profile as proponents of free trade; or that pressure brought by the thresholds for accession will inspire domestic reform in areas such as labour rights, environmental protection, intellectual property protection, and enabling more tariff-free trade. The UK and China find themselves at opposite ends of that scale.