[Reuters] Members of a major trans-Pacific trade pact said on Sunday they were gathering information on China, Taiwan and other countries interested in joining the agreement to see whether they were able to meet the pact’s “high standards”.
The comments followed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) meeting in Auckland where Britain formally signed the treaty to become a member and a decision to review and update the agreement was also made.
Along with China and Taiwan, Ukraine, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Ecuador have also applied to join the pact. A decision on who will join and when will be made collectively.
“The membership is currently undertaking an information-gathering process on whether aspirant economies can meet the CPTPP’s high standards, taking into account their experience on their trade commitments,” the members said in a joint statement.
The CPTPP is a landmark trade pact agreed in 2018 between 11 countries including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Britain became the 12th member of the pact, which cuts trade barriers, as it looks to deepen ties in the Pacific after its exit from the European Union in 2020.
“We continue to discuss how to move forward collectively on accession processes in a way that reflects all our interests and maintains the high standards,” the CPTPP statement said.
China’s application to join the pact is now next in line if they are dealt with in the order they were received, but the country faces a number of hurdles to be included.
The CPTPP requires countries to eliminate or significantly reduce tariffs, make strong commitments to opening services and investment markets and has rules around competition, intellectual property rights and protections for foreign companies.
Damien O’Connor, New Zealand’s trade minister who chaired this CPTPP meeting, said at a press conference there was no time frame for when any decisions on future membership would be made.
“It’s a complex area,” O’Connor said of membership applications, adding no single country’s application was discussed on Sunday. China has opposed Taiwan’s application.
Earlier in the day, Britain signed the treaty to accede into the pact, although it still needs to be ratified by the country’s government.
Britain’s Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch said at the signing that her country was delighted to become the first new member of the CPTPP.
“This is a modern and ambitious agreement and our membership in this exciting, brilliant and forward-looking bloc is proof that the UK’s doors are open for business,” Badenoch said.