Representatives of members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in March. Photo: Reuters / Ivan Alvarado

Officials in Beijing are reportedly taking a look at the possibility of joining a Pacific-nation trade deal once seen as shunning China, which now includes 11 nations, after the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the deal.

According to a report in the South China Morning Post on Thursday, attitudes toward the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) have been shifting in Beijing. According to one source, Chinese officials have been seeking advice on joining the deal.

If China were to be successful in joining the deal, it would mark dramatic reversal for the CPTPP, previously called the TPP, which was originally seen by observers as challenge to China’s trade practices.

It would also be a response to the new trade deal reached among the US, Canada and Mexico, which contained provisions aimed at excluding China from future trade deals. Should the Donald Trump administration form a similar pact with Japan, it could threaten Chinese market access to the trading partners.

The TPP was previously negotiated by the Barack Obama administration with Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia and seven other Pacific countries. It was touted at the time as an alternative framework to the World Trade Organization amid criticisms that the current trade enforcement regime was outdated and failed to address issues related to services, intellectual property and the digital economy properly.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had to make political sacrifices at home to give trade concessions to the US as part of the deal, but was ultimately able to see the agreement ratified by Japan. Voter sentiment against the TPP in the United States forced every major presidential candidate in 2016 to renounce the deal, including Trump, who pulled the US out of the agreement as one of his first actions after being sworn in as president.

Abe has extended an invitation for the UK to sign on to the CPTPP, while Chilean President Sebastian Piñera has suggested that China could join.

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