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Australia sees ’no prospect’ of China being accepted into CPTPP

Nikkei Asia | 11 October 2022

Australia sees ’no prospect’ of China being accepted into CPTPP


TOKYO — Australia’s trade minister remains concerned about China’s application to join one of the world’s biggest multilateral free trade agreements due to festering disputes between the two countries, though he said Canberra is open to bilateral talks with Beijing toward resolving their issues.

China applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) — an 11-member economic bloc — in September 2021. Participation requires the support of all member states, including Australia.

"I don’t believe there’s any prospect that China could join," said Don Farrell, who became minister of trade and tourism following Australia’s election and change of government in May. He spoke with Nikkei Asia on Monday while visiting Tokyo for a business event.

Relations between Australia and China deteriorated sharply after April 2020, when Beijing objected to the previous Australian government’s request to the international community to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak. That May, the Chinese side imposed high tariffs on Australian barley, later following up with levies and restrictions on a host of other products — from wine to crayfish to coal. Canberra filed a complaint against China with the World Trade Organization, claiming it was being treated unfairly.

Asked about tariffs on Australia this past July, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: "The measures Chinese authorities have taken on imported foreign goods are strictly consistent with Chinese laws and regulations and established international practice. By taking these measures, the authorities are being responsible for domestic industries and consumers. They are definitely not ’coercive’ trade practices as described by the Australian side."

But Farrell stressed that to be allowed accession to the CPTPP, countries "have to meet all their obligations," suggesting it would be necessary to see whether China was willing to abide by fair trade rules. Since that is not occurring now, he said, he sees no chance of China joining the CPTPP.

Farrell also noted that Japan is similarly cautious about Beijing’s possible accession.

Still, Farrell said he hopes for bilateral talks with China to ease the friction when "the opportunity arises."

"I remain open to dialogue and engagement with China to resolve trade blockages," he said.

Although no specific timing has been set, Farrell said it was a "positive sign" that the Chinese ambassador in Canberra had also expressed a willingness to resolve the disputes either through the WTO or bilaterally.

"A full resumption of Australian exports," Farrell said, "would benefit both countries."

 source: Nikkei Asia