The Pacific: China’s view of free trade isn’t everyone else’s

China keeps boasting of its beliefs in free trade, and of its keenness to sign deals with more countries. But the US, EU and Japan still attack its refusal to accept restrictions on government interference with trade. They insist that China’s not a market economy, and should be treated accordingly at the World Trade Organisation

China’s self-centred definition of free trade isn’t winning it the other friends its propagandists claim – and is slowing progress on deals it’s negotiating

  • The all-Asian Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). A free-trade deal between 16 Asian countries including India and China, first suggested in 2012, is supposed to be finalised by the end of 2017. But the mid-May 18th round of talks revealed little progress. China wants easier access for its goods, without restrictions on the subsidies its government gives its traders. Its RECEP negotiation partners in the RCEP talks won’t go along with that.
  • Japan, Korea, China. Thinking they’d make faster progress to a free trade deal than the more cumbersome RCEP group, these three have been negotiating a free-trade deal since 2012. At their twelfth round of talks in mid-April, they found it easy to produce joint attacks on Trump’s protectionism – but far tougher to make any progress on their proposed deal.
  • TPP-11 In mid-May, the eleven countries previously negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) with the US agreed they would go ahead towards a deal with each other and without the US.

Officials from TPP countries will meet again in Japan in July and bring forward proposals in November, said New Zealand’s Trade Minister Todd McClay. No suggestion of any real timetable for getting to an implemented deal, though.

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