Opinion: Does joining CPTPP offer China a window of opportunity?
Updated 19:34, 17-Jan-2019
Right now in China, there is much talk about structural change, a key demand from the U.S. during the trade war. In the meantime, some argue that joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which recently went into force, would add more momentum to China's structural reform as the country would have to align its policies with the pact. 
We asked Kent Calder, a renowned American scholar, who serves as the vice dean for Faculty Affairs and International Research Cooperation at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, on the beneficiaries of the pact and the possibility of China joining.
CGTN: Is Japan the biggest winner of the CPTPP? If not, which country do you think is?
Calder: I think the biggest winner, as it stands now, is probably Vietnam because Vietnam has access to large markets such as Japan and Australia. But both Japan and Vietnam and all the other players also benefit from lower agricultural prices because of the involvement of Australia and New Zealand.
CGTN: Do you think China should join the CPTPP and what would be the impact of its membership?
Calder: I think this is a window of opportunity. I think it will give China the high ground of being free-trade oriented. It would also be beneficial to Chinese companies. And many of China's cell phone manufacturers like Xiaomi or Huawei. They're moving from manufacturing to services, telecommunications and electronics. The service sector is becoming increasingly important.
CGTN: What changes will China have to make in order to join the pact?
Calder: The main one would be to liberalize a service trade and to allow systematic rules for service trade. Another important area would be intellectual property. 
Of course, as I think Chinese people are tremendously creative and innovative and in the long run, intellectual property protection would be quite valuable for China's own economic development as it moves from being an importer of technology to being a creator of technology. So, the most important areas are service trade and intellectual property protection.
And I think on both fronts, involvement with CPTPP would be very positive for China.
CGTN: Some believe joining the CPTPP will facilitate China's structural change. However, do you think China's structural reform will go in the exact direction the West is seeking?
Calder: I don't think the structural reform in China will likely go in exactly the direction that the West is seeking. But from China's perspective, I can't suppose that it needs to. No doubt, China has its own ideas as to how it should do structural reform. Some of these coincide with the idea of CPTPP or with international organizations, and perhaps some don't.
But I do think where they overlap is on the idea of intellectual property protection and also the encouragement of service trade, because both of those two are encouraged by CPTPP, and they are also important for China's future.
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