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Thursday, February 4, 2016, 15:11

China weighing up TPP: Commerce Ministry

By Xinhua
China weighing up TPP: Commerce Ministry
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key (6th right) and Ministerial Representatives from 12 countries pose for a photo after signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement in Auckland on February 4, 2016. (Photo / AFP)

BEIJING - China's Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said on Thursday the country will actively participate in and push forward regional free trade arrangements that feature high-degree transparency, openness and inclusiveness.

A MOC statement said the ministry has noticed the signing of the the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and is weighing up this regional trade deal, which China has not signed.

"The TPP is an extensive agreement. China is studying it and evaluation work is under way," according to the MOC statement issued after representatives of 12 nations including the United States and Japan signed the TPP at a ceremony in New Zealand on Thursday.

"We hope the various free trade arrangements in the Asia-Pacific region will complement each other and jointly contribute to trade, investment and economic growth of this region," said the statement.

At the official signing of the TPP on Thursday, trade ministers revealed that China loomed large in the considerations over partnership.

Asked if China would one day come "into the tent" of the 12-nation deal, trade representatives said at a press conference after the signing ceremony that the deal would set a trade standards that could be expanded to other nations including China.

United States Trade Representative Michael Froman said the TPP was not directed against any particular country, but was directed towards setting high standards for the region.

All the countries in the region realized the importance of continuing to have a constructive economic relationship with China, said Froman.

"We're continuing to work with them (China) whether it's through our bilateral dialogues or through the negotiation of a high-standard bilateral investment treaty to ensure that they are also hitting high standards and that we have a strong rules-based trading system here in the region," he said.

Australian Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb said that the TPP and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations could together become a very strong basis for a unifying set of trade rules in the Asia-Pacific region, which involved China in another regional trade deal backed by the Association of South East Asian Nations.

"When you remove the noodle bowl of bilateral rules, which have worked effectively as the foundations for the TPP and I think will again work as the foundations for RCEP, to make that into one set of seamless trading rules across the region, it reduces the cost, it makes it a lot easier to trade, it increases certainty for exporters and importers and it is really a very strong objective that we're all ultimately heading for," said Robb.

Malaysian Minister of International Trade and Industry Mustapa Mohamed said there were fears that the TPP could jeopardize the trading relationship with China, which was either their biggest trading partner or one of the biggest in Malaysia and in many TPP countries.

"To that our response has been that China is now our biggest trading partner and we don't see that changing in the next few years," said Mohamed.

"The way we look at it in Malaysia is that the TPP will bring the momentum for bigger trade opening-up in the region and of course, as you know, we are open to other countries coming on board," he said.

"The way forward is to continue having very strong economic links with China and next of course to always welcome the accession of new members."

Currently under discussion by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group of countries which includes China, Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs Heraldo Munoz said the TPP was perfectly compatible with advancing the Free Trade Area of Asia Pacific.

"China is the main trade partner for Chile and we look forward to deepening that relationship, and we think that we have to make this convergent rather than to see it as divergent," said Munoz.

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