TPP gurus ask China to tread carefully

By Zhong Nan and Ren Xiaojin | China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-14 08:27

Analysts weigh benefits of joining as a new member and various alternatives

China needs to think carefully on whether it should join the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a new member as the benefits of doing so are still uncertain, analysts warned on Monday.

"China has been focusing on a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership," said Jiang Shan, a researcher at the Beijing-based Center for China and Globalization.

"We can also list a long string of alternatives such as the World Trade Organization, the China-Japan-South Korea Free Trade Agreement and the China-US bilateral investment treaty and even unilateral liberalization," Jiang said.

"The issue is whether other alternatives can similarly yield the goals hoped to be realized by joining the TPP, or if another approach can help achieve expected goals more easily and conveniently."

Meanwhile, some requirements of the TPP membership are not suitable for China's current situation, analysts said. For example, the TPP has proposed noncommercial support for State-owned enterprises of members.

China still needs time to accelerate the pace of its SOE reforms and optimize the use of their assets, said Tu Xinquan, a professor at the China Institute for WTO Studies at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.

"The national conditions of every country differ and the capacity to withstand liberalization and benefit from it also varies," said He Ning, former director-general of the Ministry of Commerce's department of American and Oceanian Affairs.

To China, it would appear from all aspects that there are no objections to the overall direction toward continued expansion of opening-up to the outside world. What is in dispute is the pace and scope of the opening-up, He said.

US President Trump signed an executive order to withdraw his country from the TPP in January, as one of six immediate steps aimed at "putting America first." The move caused other members to readjust their policies on whether the TPP should welcome China.

Wendy Cutler, former US representative at the TPP negotiations and vice-president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, said as the US withdrew from TPP, the Trump administration had emphasized that it is no longer interested in a regional trade deal now but a bilateral trade deal starting with the North America Free Trade Agreement.

She said the US trade policy puts the country first and there is an emphasis on reducing the US trade deficit. Cutler said that meant especially singling out those partners the US had a large trade deficit with such as China, Japan, South Korea, Germany and Mexico.

"The Trump administration will also seek other bilateral negotiations with non-TPP countries including Japan, South Korea and China," Cutler added.

There was not any concrete anti-China trade action taking place, but China would see more anti-dumping countervailing duty cases against its exports.

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