At a press conference following the APEC Ministers Meeting, New Zealand Minister for Trade and Export Growth Damien O'Connor was asked several questions about the applications by Taiwan and China to join the CPTPP. He avoided offering a specific response to questions about New Zealand supporting the applications, and about particular Chinese practices and behavior, instead offering general statements such as "all economies would welcome the greater movement and the reduction of any barriers" and "it's up to the applicant economies to reach the [CPTPP's] standards that we have set and that we believe work well for us." The full exchanges were as follows:
Question: I was wondering if I could ask about one of the talking points which has been going on on the sidelines of APEC and that's Taiwan's bid to join the CPTPP. I was wondering if New Zealand can say whether it supports Taiwan's bid to join that trade pact. And also if you could comment on China's wish to join us as well.
O'Connor: We, as members of CPTPP, have always been open to accession by applicants. I think we've all welcomed the applications by UK, by China, and by Chinese Taipei. That's a separate process. Not all APEC members are part of CPTPP. And so that wasn't a core part of discussions. But nonetheless, as a trade and economic forum, all economies would welcome the greater movement and the reduction of any barriers. The CPTPP provides that. But accession requests do mean that those applicants will have to look at the standards required to ultimately become members and be accepted.
Question: I'm going to press the point on the CPTPP again. Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has said she'd be happy for China to join that agreement if it met minimum requirements. Given the high standards this agreement has set on issues like freedom of data flows, labor, and the elimination of all forms of forced labor, I'm interested in what would China need to do in New Zealand's eyes to satisfy such standards? Like for instance, would it have to disband its alleged reeducation camps for Uighurs in Xinjiang? Would it have to end what's widely regarded as its economic coercion of Australia?
O'Connor: Look, we're just one of the member economies in CPTPP. It's not for us to judge, and we're not going to prejudge, what China might have to change or do. What the members of CPTPP have committed to is to maintaining the high standards that were hard fought, hard won. And I don't think anyone has a view that there should be any movement from those standards. So it's up to the applicant economies to reach the standards that we have set and that we believe work well for us.