12:27 GMT18 September 2020
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    The idea of inviting the EU to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement is a pie in the sky, whereas China could become a TPP member, albeit with preconditions, Russian expert Yekaterina Arapova told Sputnik.

    In an interview with Sputnik, Russian foreign affairs expert Yekaterina Arapova from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, wrote off the idea of inviting the EU to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, calling it a pie in the sky.

    As far as China is concerned, it could become a TPP member but with a set of preconditions, she said.

    The interview came after US President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday withdrawing the United States from the TPP, fulfilling his campaign pledges.

    Trump has repeatedly criticized the free trade agreement between Washington and 11 other Pacific Rim states, and has repeatedly voiced the necessity to replace multilateral agreements with bilateral deals that would be more beneficial for the United States.

    Washington's withdrawal from the TPP immediately grabbed global headlines, with the Japanese newspaper Nikkei Shimbun already calling China "a possible new TPP leader."

    Speaking to Sputnik, Yekaterina Arapova said that "our Japanese colleagues should not very big illusions on this score, because China has repeatedly signaled its reluctance to push for regional and especially global leadership."

    "At the same time China is very zealous about protecting its own strategic priorities. Therefore, if China starts to promote the idea of its joining the TPP, it will most likely be linked to the revision of the agreement's provisions that have already been signed," she said.

    Arapova recalled that the text of the TPP agreement is openly pro-American in terms of the protection of intellectual property rights and in terms of labor legislation-related issues, it sticks to US norms.

    "So China will most likely insist on a new round of negotiations, and it remains to be seen whether China's new initiatives within the TPP will be in line with Japan's strategic priorities. I do not think that China could unconditionally join the TTP agreement in its current form," she pointed out.

    Arapova predicted that China will now try to do its best to use this regional project for implementing its own to strategic goals, including those related to restructuring the Chinese economy and increasing its exports.

    "On the other hand, China will seek to expand its investment presence in the Asia-Pacific and beyond," Arapova said.

    Meanwhile, New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English said earlier this week that the latest developments could see the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal come to the fore.

    "We've got this RCEP agreement with Southeast Asia, which up until now has been on a bit of a slow burn, but we might find the political will for that to pick up if TPP isn't going to proceed," he said.

    Hidenobu Tokuda, senior economist at the Japan-based Mizuho Research Institute, echoed the sentiment, telling Sputnik that Trump's decision to pull out of the TPP would result in a shift in influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

    "Beijing would promote the China-led RCEP, and without the TPP, China's influence would expand over the Asian region. And moreover, taking this advantage, China will try to strengthen its interests — and this will be a challenge for the US in the rest of the Asia region," Hidenobu Tokuda told Sputnik.

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