China has unveiled new measures to help its bid to join an Asia-Pacific trade agreement as Beijing presses on with its goal to reach the standards of the 11-nation deal, despite the thresholds for entry deemed by some members to be too high for the world’s second-largest economy.
The measures, part of a document on opening up, will be introduced on a trial basis in some of China’s free-trade zones and ports, and are aimed at aligning with “high-standard international economic and trade rules”, the State Council said on Thursday.
Chen Chunjiang, assistant minister at China’s ministry of commerce, said that the measures offer “practical support” to joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), as well as the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA).
The trials will help China to accumulate experience and also demonstrate its willingness and ability to join high-standard economic trade agreements, Chen said.
Joining CPTPP is in the interest of China, and I think it is also in the interest of all CPTPP members Chen Chunjiang. Chen also said that China has conducted in-depth research and evaluation of the agreement and organised the reform measures and relevant laws and regulations for joining the trans-Pacific trade pact. “In the next step, we will continue to maintain communication and consultation with all member parties,” Chen added.
China applied to join CPTPP in September 2021 and DEPA – which builds upon the digital or e-commerce chapters of existing free-trade agreements – in November 2021. China clamours to join CPTPP trade bloc as external pressures mount 24 Apr 2023
CPTPP membership requires approval from all member countries, namely Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Japan. The United Kingdom, having applied in June 2021, reached an agreement to join in March and is expected to formally sign the pact this year.
China’s new measures include changes prohibiting relevant authorities asking for “the transfer of or access to, source code of software owned by a person of another party, as a condition for the import, distribution, sale or use of such software, or of products containing such software”.
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The European Chamber of Commerce in China also said the document was “a step in the right direction”, but added that further measures are still necessary.
The changes on the transfer of source codes “does not elaborate the circumstances under which this would apply, there is a level of uncertainty about its implementation and any resulting implications,” the chamber said.
President Xi has said that China is open to negotiations on industrial subsidies and state-owned firms to be accepted into CPTPP.
Member countries, including Australia and Japan, have raised concerns over China’s ability to comply with reforms needed for the accession. The CPTPP emerged after former US president Donald Trump withdrew the country from its predecessor, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, in 2017. The Biden administration has not revisited the idea, but has sought to create new frameworks, including the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity.
China also pledged to relax temporary entry rules for business executives and their families, allowing them to enjoy the same length of stay as company representatives.
But other related challenges remain, such as the erosion of the soft infrastructure that is vital for maintaining a vibrant foreign community in China European Chamber of Commerce in China. The measures “send a good signal for the further resumption of people-to-people exchanges”, the European chamber added.
“But other related challenges remain, such as the erosion of the soft infrastructure that is vital for maintaining a vibrant foreign community in China.
“For example, with international schools and medical clinics finding themselves short of both staff and customers, their service offerings have reduced overall, which makes relocation to China a less attractive proposition, especially for senior-level talent who are more likely to bring their families.”
On Wednesday, New Zealand publicly endorsed China’s participation in both CPTPP and DEPA following a meeting between New Zealand’s trade minister Damien O’Connor and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Wentao, on Monday.
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23 May 2023.
New Zealand will host a meeting of CPTPP members in July, when new applicants are expected to be considered, with Taiwan, Ecuador and Costa Rica having also applied to join. New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said all applications to join CPTPP would be considered. Beijing has previously opposed Taiwan joining “any agreement or organisation of an official nature”.
By Amanda Lee. 30 June 2023.
Source: South China Morning Post. https://www.scmp.com/economy/global-economy/article/3226158/china-ease-economic-and-trade-rules-aid-cptpp-pact-bid-amid-scepticism-over-reform-commitment. 01 July 2023.
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