November 14, 2022
PHNOM PENH – The outcome of China’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is not yet known and the country, like all others in the trade pact, will have to meet the high standards expected of all members.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that while the trade pact is by design an open and inclusive agreement and Singapore welcomes any expression of interest, the agreement has procedures that have to be followed.
“There are rules and regulations, and they’re all clearly spelt out in the CPTPP agreement. So therefore Singapore has said that we support China’s interest in joining the CPTPP in principle,” he added.
“Of course, China will have to meet the high standards which are expected of all the members, but that is something which has to be established and worked out between China and all the members of the CPTPP.”
PM Lee was speaking to reporters in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, after he wrapped up a series of high-level meetings with regional and global leaders, including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
A statement published by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs after PM Lee and Mr Li met on Friday mentioned that PM Lee had said that Singapore supports China’s accession to the CPTPP.
The CPTPP is a free trade agreement signed in March 2018 among 11 countries – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – that removes 95 per cent of tariffs among its members.
Its provisions on common obligations on food regulations, environmental protections, the digital economy and investment as well as labour and financial services make it stand out from other free trade pacts.
China, along with several others such as Britain, Ecuador and Costa Rica, has applied to join the agreement.
PM Lee said that on all matters to do with accession, the decision is made by a consensus among all the existing members of the partnership.
“In particular, the formal decision to start the accession process depends on consensus among the partners,” he added.
“So therefore what China has to do is to engage the partners individually and talk to them and work out any issues they may have with the partners individually, which I think even if you read the newspapers, you will know that they have some issues with some of the CPTPP countries.”
If this process is completed and there is a consensus, then the accession can go ahead, PM Lee added.
Noting that Singapore is chair of the CPTPP commission this year, he said it will carry out its role objectively and impartially, and do its duty as chair.
“And that’s how it has to work, and that’s our public position. I’ve stated it several times. And when I met Premier Li Keqiang, I explained it to him again.”