China has backed out of the Trans Pacific Partnership, a long-negotiated trade agreement between a dozen countries. Political analyst Sara Hsu says in the Diplomat China might have enough reason and chance to join later, but has now too many other international commitments on its plate.
China was invited to join the TPP by Hillary Clinton in 2012. Some have speculated that China would not join the bloc because it is a “high standards agreement,” even speculating that this was put in place to lock China out of the agreement. However, it is not clear how these “high standards” will be enforced. Past trade agreements, such as NAFTA and CAFTA, with similar labor or environmental standards, have not been enforced by the United States. Whether the lack of enforcement renders more or less attractive to China is unclear. The benefits of the treaty may be attainable by China by creating separate free trade agreements with participating nations. Interestingly, Hillary Clinton herself has now come out against the pact due to concerns over aspects of the agreement, such as currency manipulation, that are insufficiently addressed.
China appears to currently have enough international economic negotiations on the table to keep it occupied, and it is unlikely that it is really concerned about the TPP. The nation is a sufficiently large player in the world economy to negotiate successfully with trading partners. China is already in the process of participating in the Silk Road project, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the New Development Bank, and other high-level economic structures. If the TPP proves valuable, perhaps China will join the alliance in the coming months. Hence it may prove beneficial if the treaty is not positioned as an anti-China agreement going forward.
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