China requests to join the Pacific trade pact in a bid to boost its economic clout

FILE PHOTO: Workers make Chinese flags at a factory ahead of the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China in Jiaxing, Zhejiang

FILE PHOTO: Workers make Chinese flags at a factory ahead of the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China in Jiaxing, Zhejiang

BEIJING, Sept 16 (Reuters) – China has applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the country’s Commerce Ministry said on Thursday, as the world’s second-largest economy seeks to bolster its commercial influence.

Trade Minister Wang Wentao introduced China’s request to join the free trade agreement in a letter to New Zealand Trade Minister Damien O’Connor, the Chinese ministry said in a statement.

The CPTPP was signed by 11 countries, including Mexico, Peru, and Chile, in 2018.

Before that, it was known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and was seen as a major economic counterbalance to China’s regional influence.

The project was central to then-US President Barack Obama’s strategic approach to Asia, but his successor, Donald Trump, withdrew the United States from the pact in 2017.

Joining the CPTPP would be a big boost for China following the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Association (RCEP), an agreement between 15 nations sealed last year.

Beijing has pushed for its inclusion in the pact, even highlighting that the economies of China and Australia have enormous potential for cooperation. However, relations between the two countries have deteriorated.

Britain and Thailand have also shown interest in joining the CPTPP.

(Reporting by Colin Qian, Twinnie Siu and Tom Daly. Edited in Spanish by Rodrigo Charme)

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