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The backstory: There's this agreement called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP for short. It's a pretty exclusive club – to become a member, a country needs the approval of all the existing members. Some of the current members include Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan.
Take the UK, for example. It decided to hop on the CPTPP train back in 2021. It took a bit of back-and-forth, but it finally reached a deal in March. Now, the UK is waiting to make it official by signing the agreement, which will probably happen later this year.
On the other hand, we have China. The world's second-largest economy has also shown interest in joining the CPTPP. The country submitted its application in September 2021. But that's not all. China also applied for membership in another agreement called the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA) a few months later. DEPA focuses on digital trade and cooperation in advanced technologies, and it already has members like Chile, New Zealand and Singapore.
More recently: In May, China tried to convince Australia to support its CPTPP plans during a visit by Australian trade minister Don Farrell. But Farrell hinted that Beijing might fall short of meeting the stringent conditions necessary for membership.
The development: New Zealand's Prime Minister Chris Hipkins just visited China, and the two countries made some major agreements together to boost their economic cooperation. New Zealand openly supported China's participation in both the CPTPP and DEPA. They're also focusing on areas like food security, agriculture, customs, laws and new technologies. They both expressed a strong desire to increase trade and expand their collaboration in areas such as e-commerce and the green economy.
During the meeting, President Xi Jinping emphasized that China sees New Zealand as a "friend and partner." He highlighted the importance of the relationship between the two countries and expressed a willingness to take it to the next level with a comprehensive strategic partnership.
“Your visit this time is very meaningful,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping to New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins. “The international community, especially countries in our region, have been following your visit very closely.
"It was also important to acknowledge areas of difference, such as over human rights," said Hipkins in a statement on his government's website. "We engaged on these as well, as we regularly do in a respectful but consistent way that is aligned with New Zealand's independent interests and values."
“Clearly, at the moment, the high standards that you’re required to meet under the CPTPP are not being met because we would say they’re not currently complying with their existing obligations,” said Australian trade minister Don Farrel last month about China’s application into the pact.