The only way Beijing enters Pacific trade deal is by watering it down to mediocrity
Xi Jinping does not tweet. China’s president, though, just established himself as a master troll as he raises Beijing’s hand to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
Originally with 12 members, the TPP started out as history’s biggest trade pact. It was a U.S.-led multilateral bulwark against one giant player — Beijing — setting prices and rules and using its scale to continue bigfooting the World Trade Organization system. Then U.S. President Donald Trump came along in 2017 to leave TPP at the altar — and make Xi’s year.
That left a gaping void that Xi has just leapt into by joining the 15-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, eclipsing TPP. Expectations are that President-elect Joe Biden will rejoin TPP come January, making Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s 2021. And even though Japan joined RCEP — Tokyo, Canberra and Seoul view it as something of an open marriage with mercantilist Beijing.
Not so fast, Xi says. Beijing is considering joining TPP, front-running a Biden administration that does not begin until Jan. 20. China should not be allowed within a mile of TPP. And it might fall to Suga and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to tell Xi why.