Blog Post

Trans-Pacific Partnership: Should the key losers – China and Europe – join forces?

After five years of struggle, a massive trade pact has been signed among the US, Japan and 10 other economies (mostly in Asia but also Latin America): the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

By: Date: October 6, 2015 Topic: Global Economics & Governance

The winners are obvious: Obama and Shinzo Abe, arguably also the US and Japanese economies. Obama can leave office with a strong demonstration of the US pivot to Asia, and Abe can finally argue that the third arrow of his Abenomics program is not empty.

The losers are also obvious: China and Europe. China not only has been left out of the deal, but it has been left out on purpose. If anybody had any doubt (at some point China was invited into the negotiations and some still expect China to continue discussing membership in the future), Obama’s official statement on TPP yesterday makes it very clear: “when more than 95 percent of our potential customers live outside our borders, we can’t let countries like China write the rules of the global economy”. For China the issue is not only losing access to the US market but also the fact that its most important trading partners are in the deal, with the notable exception of Europe. Europe, which has spent years negotiating with the US on another major trade pact, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), may need to be more accommodating to reach a deal before Obama leaves, as the President’s interest has probably waned somewhat after this victory.  On the other hand, many of the negotiation benchmarks reached by the US government for TPP will probably not be acceptable for Europe.

The fact that TPP has not yet being ratified by national parliaments still offers room for doubt as to TPP’s actual economic significance (exemptions from its coverage could spring out in every jurisdiction) but there is no doubt that it will be economically relevant.  TPP covers 40 per cent of global trade and spans 800 million people. Not only will trade barriers be reduced to the minimum in virtually every sector (including generally protected ones such as agriculture)  but also common standards will need to be used by all participants, be it for investment, environment or labour. In this regard, the primacy of the protection of brand names over the protection of geographical indications of agricultural products, or the priority of the protection of trade secrets over press freedom are cornerstones of the US success in its negotiations with TPP partners, which also shows the price that a country like Japan are willing to pay for US-led security.  In the same vein, the high price to pay (in terms of US supremacy on the negotiation table) makes it all the more unlikely for China to seriously consider joining the bloc in the near future: the treatment of state-owned enterprises and data protection are two stumbling blocks. The latter is also a key deterrent for Europe’s TTIP negotiations.

The question, thus, is what should China and Europe do against the background of a huge economic block like TPP. Having lost hope of a multilateral process under the axis of the WTO,  both areas have been piling up bilateral free trade agreements (FTA) with countries of interest, some of which are also part of TPP. As an example, China has recently closed a deal with Australia while Europe has done the same with Singapore and Vietnam. Aware of the fact that such bilateral FTAs will remain quite futile compared to TPP (both in terms of size and coverage), China is gearing towards a regional strategy, participating in talks on a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which would link it to 10 Southeast Asian Nations, including Japan. It remains unclear whether these countries will have an interest to pursue such deal once TPP is up and running. Against this gloomy backdrop, China and Europe may finally look at each other and find some commonalities that they were unaware of before. The process will not be easy, but at least there is a starting point; Europe and China are negotiating a Bilateral Investment Agreement, following in the footsteps of the US. Now that the US and China seem to have lost the momentum for their own Bilateral Investment Agreement (a notable absence during Xi Jinping’s trip to the US), Europe could – for once – become a frontrunner in the negotiations with China and have the US follow if it so wishes.


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint. Anyone is free to republish and/or quote this post without prior consent. Please provide a full reference, clearly stating Bruegel and the relevant author as the source, and include a prominent hyperlink to the original post.

View comments
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

La lunga marcia della Cina sui porti europei

I porti sono una risorsa vitale per l'economia europea: oltre il 70% delle merci che attraversano le frontiere europee viaggiano via mare. L'anno scorso, il presidente della Commissione europea ha proposto di istituire un nuovo meccanismo europeo per la verifica degli investimenti esteri diretti tra le crescenti preoccupazioni sull'acquisizione di infrastrutture europee e attività ritenute strategiche dall'estero. Alla luce di questi sviluppi, riteniamo che sia utile concentrarsi sul crescente coinvolgimento della Cina nel sistema portuale europeo.

By: Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: July 20, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Ubu ou Machiavel?

L'administration Trump veut imposer une approche transactionnelle des relations économiques gouvernée par le rapport de force bilatéral en lieu et place du contrat multilatéral. Un défi d'une ampleur inédite pour l'Europe.

By: Jean Pisani-Ferry Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: July 6, 2018
Read about event

Upcoming Event

Sep
3-4
08:30

Bruegel Annual Meetings 2018

The 2018 Annual Meetings will be held on 3-4 September and will feature sessions on European and global economic governance, as well as finance, energy and innovation.

Speakers: Maria Åsenius, Richard E. Baldwin, Carl Bildt, Nadia Calviño, Maria Demertzis, Mariya Gabriel, Péter Kaderják, Joanne Kellermann, Jörg Kukies, Emmanuel Lagarrigue, Philippe Lespinard, Montserrat Mir Roca, Dominique Moïsi, Jean Pierre Mustier, Ana Palacio, Jean Pisani-Ferry, Lucrezia Reichlin, Norbert Röttgen, André Sapir, Jean-Claude Trichet, Johan Van Overtveldt, Margrethe Vestager, Reinhilde Veugelers, Thomas Wieser, Guntram B. Wolff and Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance, Finance & Financial Regulation, Global Economics & Governance, Innovation & Competition Policy Location: Brussels Comic Strip Museum, Rue des Sables 20, 1000 Brussels
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

EU income inequality decline: Views from an income shares perspective

Over the past decade, the income share of low earners has increased in the EU while that of top earners has slightly declined. Although the upward convergence of the impoverished central European population is impressive, the southern European poor have faced a major setback while the southern European rich have hardly suffered.

By: Zsolt Darvas Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 5, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Beyond Nord Stream 2: a look at Russia’s Turk Stream project

Since 2015, Nord Stream 2 has been at the centre of all European discussions concerning the EU-Russia relations. But as endless political discussions in Europe are being held on this pipeline project, the pipes of another similar Russian pipeline project – Turk Stream – are already being laid by Gazprom at the bottom of the Black Sea. This piece looks at these developments, analysing their strategic impacts on Europe.

By: Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Energy & Climate Date: July 4, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Can Multilateralism Adapt?

Global governance requires rules, because flexibility and goodwill alone cannot tackle the hardest shared problems. With multilateralism under attack, the narrow path ahead is to determine, on a case-by-case basis, the minimum requirements of effective collective action, and to forge agreement on reforms that fulfill these conditions.

By: Jean Pisani-Ferry Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: July 3, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

US tariffs and China's holding of Treasuries

China has the biggest bilateral trade surplus vis-à-vis the US but is also a top holder of US government bonds. While China has started to counteract US trade tariffs, economists have been discussing the case of China acting on its holdings of US Treasuries. We review recent contributions.

By: Silvia Merler Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: July 2, 2018
Read article

Blog Post

Trading invisibles: Exposure of countries to GDPR

This blog post identifies provisions of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that affect foreign companies, and discusses implications for trade in services with the EU. The authors provide a novel mapping of countries’ relative exposure to these regulations by a) measuring the digital maturity of their service exports to the EU; and b) the share of these exports in national GDP.

By: Sonali Chowdhry and Nicolas Moës Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Global Economics & Governance Date: June 28, 2018
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Trade war trinity: analysis of global consequences

Analysis of the long-term impact of the trade war and its three key players: EU, US, and China.

Speakers: Alicia García-Herrero, Ignasi Guardans and Carl B Hamilton Topic: Global Economics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: June 28, 2018
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

China’s strategic investments in Europe: The case of maritime ports

The EU is currently working on a new framework for screening foreign direct investments (FDI). Maritime ports represent the cornerstone of the EU trade infrastructure, as 70% of goods crossing European borders travel by sea. This blog post seeks to inform this debate by looking at recent Chinese involvement in EU ports.

By: Shivali Pandya and Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: June 27, 2018
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

EU-LAC Economic Forum 2018

The second edition of the EU-LAC Economic Forum, a high level gathering for in-depth research-based exchanges on economic issues between European, Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) policy makers and experts.

Speakers: Angel Badillo, Federico Bonaglia, Maria Demertzis, Sylvie Durán, Guillermo Fernández de Soto, Alicia García-Herrero, Elisa Grafulla, Gonzalo Gutiérrez, Bert Hoffmann, Juan Jung, Emilio Lamo de Espinosa, Carlos Malamud, J. Scott Marcus, Neven Mimica, Fabio Nasarre de Letosa, Detlef Nolte, Anne Sperschneider and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Global Economics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: June 26, 2018
Read about event More on this topic

Upcoming Event

Oct
3
09:00

International trade and the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement

This event; jointly organised by Bruegel and the Graduate School of Economics, Kobe University, will discuss the EU-Japan trade deal and asses its impact.

Speakers: Marco Chirullo, Gabriel Felbermayr, François Godement, Hiroo Inoue, Sébastien Jean, Yoichi Matsubayashi, Tamotsu Nakamura, André Sapir, Cécile Toubeau, Agata Wierzbowska and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Global Economics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Load more posts