China must not be allowed to dominate regional trade deals

Last week the Morrison Government signed the giant secret trade deal called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

The RCEP is led by China and will also comprise members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia.

Now China has indicated that it is interested in joining the 11 member Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which reportedly has been welcomed by the federal government:

Chinese President Xi Jinping told APEC China would “favourably consider joining” the TPP as part of realising a free trade area for the Asia-Pacific.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said Australia welcomed interest from a number of global partners to join the “high-quality” TPP…

“I’m sure Simon Birmingham would welcome a phone call from his Chinese counterpart to discuss the idea,” [Liberal MP Ted O’Brien] said…

Former diplomat and Asia Society Australia head of policy Richard Maude… said Australian support for China joining the TPP could be a small positive given the current tensions.

Allowing China into CPTPP alongside RCEP would cement China’s position more firmly as an economic partner with Southeast Asia, Japan and Korea. In turn, they could let China shape the region’s trade rules and wedge Australia’s vital strategic relationship with the US.

China has demonstrated unequivocally that it does not play fair and cannot be trusted on trade. Therefore, its entry into CPTPP should be resisted, with Australia instead pitching CTPP to incoming US President Joe Biden (the US withdrew under Donald Trump).

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