Fashionably Late: China Openly Contemplates Joining the TPP

By Shannon Togawa Mercer

On October 25, an influential Communist Party newspaper stated that China should join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) at the appropriate time given that the TPP’s aims align with China’s economic reform agenda, Reuters reports. As The Summit’s Alex Yeager reported, China is not party to the TPP, leading some to speculate that the agreement is intended to reduce regional dependence on China’s economy. Some of the terms of the agreement de facto preclude China’s membership, most notably government procurement standards that would change the way Chinese SOEs operate and electronic commerce liberalization. The recent Chinese newspaper release sends a measured message: that China should pay “close attention and at an appropriate time, in accordance with the progress on domestic reform, join the TPP, while limiting the costs associated to the greatest degree.” At the same time, China continues to cultivate its own trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), to create a 16-country free trade zone. This leaves us asking, will China show up to the TPP party at all? And if so, is it better late than never?