On September 30, the Trade Subcommittee of the Australian Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade met with former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (currently an adviser to the UK Board of Trade) as part of its inquiry on "Expanding Membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership."
As part of the discussion, Senator David Fawcett, the Chair of the committee, described two schools of thought on the value of having China in the CPTPP:
CHAIR: And I don't want to simplify things too much, but there are at least two schools of thought that we've heard with respect to China on this. One goes along the lines that yes, China may not have the same rules based perspective that we and like-minded nations do, but keeping them in the tent or bringing them into this tent will increase the likelihood of them shifting towards the rules based order under which we play. The alternative school of thought goes along the lines that, well, that's wishful thinking, but history tells you that they won't do that. Do you have a view either on how those two views get reconciled or on whether one is more right than the other?
Abbott responded by saying that any acceptance of China's application should be contingent on some changes in its existing behavior and practices:
Mr Abbott : Look, I have a quite strong view that there's no way China should be allowed anywhere near the TPP until, at the very least, it drops its trade boycotts of Australia, which are capricious and arbitrary—to put it at its kindest. China has been using trade to bully Australia. China has weaponised trade. China sees trade as an arm of strategy, and I can understand why—because it gives them leverage over other countries. But at the moment I think the last thing we need is further integration of China into the world economic order. I think China has demonstrated, by the way it's approached Australia, that that's not how it plays the game. For us to even countenance China's entry into the TPP while it's maintaining the current boycotts of Australian goods would be not just wrong but also a sign of weakness on our part. Given that Australia has been, to the government's great credit, steadfast and robust in its approach to Chinese bullying, the last thing we want to do is weaken that.
Fawcett then followed up by asking about Abbott's views on Taiwan's application:
CHAIR: ... there's been no greater volume of submissions on any potential member than submissions in favour of Taiwan. We all know the history and the existing tensions around the Taiwan Strait and so forth. Do you have a view on Taiwan's accession to the CPTPP?
Abbott responded as follows:
Mr Abbott : My disposition is strongly in favour of Taiwan entering the TPP. I'm happy to hear an argument against Taiwan being admitted. The only argument that occurs to me is that it might upset China, but given that China is not a member of the TPP, is unlikely to become a member of the TPP and is already in a state of high dudgeon against Australia and many other countries, I don't see that China is going to be any more upset than it already is.