Asked whether New Zealand, the trade bloc’s current chair, would be open to changing labour and “rules of origin” commitments in the CPTPP if the US were interested in joining, its deputy trade and economic secretary Vangelis Vitalis said: “We’re in an ongoing process of updating and upgrading the existing agreement”.
Vitalis, speaking at an event hosted by the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, also said it was a “source of immense regret” to see the US not be a part of the bloc.
“Those championing the TPP, including President Obama, often cast it as a vehicle for maintaining US leadership in Asia in the face of China’s rise, arguing that through the agreement, the United States can ‘write the rules’ for regional trade and investment,” the Congressional Research Service wrote soon after the terms were set.
The initial TPP grouping, including the US, would have comprised about 40 per cent of total global trade, giving it more clout than the current incarnation, with just under 16 per cent.
Crawford Falconer, London’s Second Permanent Secretary for the Department for Business and Trade, said on Wednesday that if the US were serious about joining and had reservations about specific items in the agreement, Britain would be “up for that discussion”.
But he added: “I don’t get the impression at the moment that the US has got two or three issues [about joining] … I think it’s more fundamental”.
Taro Kono, who served as Japan’s defence minister and foreign minister, and Takashi Yamashita, the country’s former justice minister, have called on Washington to join the bloc.
Kono, speaking at a think tank event last year in Washington, said the objectives that Biden had laid out for IPEF would be better served through CPTPP if the US were a member.
In a blunt assessment, Kono also said at the time: “Now the Biden administration is talking about Indo-Pacific economic whatever. I would say forget about it.”
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