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China Wants New Zealand's Help To Join CPTPP Free Trade Agreement

China may be looking for favours from New Zealand as it tries to join a major trade agreement, but a trade expert says there is little Aotearoa can do to help.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) was signed in 2018, evolving from the former Trans-Pacific-Partnership (TPP) which originally included the United States.

China, the world's second-biggest economy, applied to join the CPTPP in 2021.

A Reuters report from Beijing this week said China's vice commerce minister was hoping New Zealand would play a more positive role in getting China's application approved.

New Zealand acted as the depository of the agreement - a sort of storage and clearing house of messages and documents.

China might be looking for some help, but the reality was the decision to let China into the CPTPP would be out of New Zealand's hands, New Zealand International Business Forum executive director Stephen Jacobi said.

"I'm sure they would like to have a few favours from New Zealand, but it's not quite in New Zealand's gift to deliver this agreement for them," he said.

China and New Zealand have a long and established trade relationship, with New Zealand becoming the first developed country to enter into a free trade agreement with China in 2008.

Jacobi said there were three criteria for new members.

The first was how the application needed to be approved by a consensus of all 12 parties to the agreement - including the newest country to join, the United Kingdom.

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"They have to meet the agreements, high standards, both with respect to rules and market access.

"When ministers met in Auckland last year, they added a third one, which any new accessions or aspiring countries will have to demonstrate a pattern of compliance with existing trade agreements," Jacobi said.

Jacobi said adding new parties to the CPTPP would be beneficial for all existing members of the agreement.

Other countries wanting to join were Costa Rica, Ecuador, Taiwan, Ukraine and Uruguay.

Jacobi said despite the geopolitical tension, New Zealand should favour China and Taiwan joining.

"It seems quite clear though, that CPTPP has to both expand to welcome new members ... it also has to deepen to bring its own rules up to date with the international trading system," he said.

On China, Jacobi said it would be in New Zealand's interest to have China "fully integrated in the region" and "playing by the rules of trade".

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