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Who is in and who is out?

It appears as though some big names around the globe want an invitation to our party. It’s not a dance-the-night-away party, but it is a hot ticket, nonetheless.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership [CPTPP] is a sought-after trade collective, and some of those wanting a piece of the action are not the least bit bothered they are a long way from the Pacific.

In fact, much has been made of the latest invitee. The no-longer-in-Europe United Kingdom is spreading its wings and, despite criticism at home, is making positive noises about officially joining CPTPP at the weekend.

Some pundits in the UK believe that the CPTPP represents a viable alternative to the World Trade Organisation. That’s a very big call in my view, but then Britain has been trading in all corners of the world for quite a while now and knows a thing or two about new opportunities. At least, it needs to know a thing or two more in the post-Brexit environment. That said, the much-hyped deal may only deliver an estimated 0.08 per cent bump to Britain’s domestic gross domestic product. That’s a small number, even in the multi-billion-dollar trade game.

Of course, when politicians are heavily involved in anything significant, there is bound to be an ulterior motive or two.

For Japan, having Britain in the CPTPP is nothing short of a diplomatic triumph. Perhaps more important than any particular trade benefits, it will help lift economic and military defences against the growing might of China. Tokyo will be delighted.

Reports from Britain covered accounts of how former Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss had threatened to break a signed trade agreement with the EU, which raised questions and probably some eyebrows at the CPTPP. Tokyo then had a diplomatic minefield to negotiate to convince CPTPP allies – chiefly Australia, New Zealand, and Canada – that everything was fine. Cloak and dagger stuff that could easily make up the core of a best-seller.

But wait, there’s more.

CPTPP members said at the weekend that they were gathering information on China, Taiwan, and other countries interested in joining the agreement to see whether they were able to meet the pact’s “high standards”.

Information gathering. I don’t like their chances.

How on earth could you invite one and not the other? So don’t ask either. It’s worse than sorting out the wedding invitations when some members of the two families don’t get on. China has opposed Taiwan’s application. Of course it has.

Along with China and Taiwan, Ukraine, Costa Rica, Uruguay, and Ecuador have also applied to join the pact. A decision on who will join and when will be made collectively.

Try saying “no thanks” to Ukraine with everything that’s going on over there at the moment. “Um, sorry, but we don’t have any room at the table at the moment, but good luck with everything.”

New Zealand trade minister Damien O’Connor, who chaired the CPTPP meeting, said there was no timeframe for when any decisions on future membership would be made.

Perhaps that will give Ukraine some hope.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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