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Liz Truss: UK should stop China joining Indo-Pacific trade deal

Liz Truss: UK should stop China joining Indo-Pacific trade deal

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LONDON — The U.K. must use its newfound membership of a major Indo-Pacific trade deal to stop China joining, former Prime Minister Liz Truss said.

Speaking on the day the U.K. announced it had been cleared to join CPTPP, the ex-PM and former foreign secretary told POLITICO’s London Playbook PM it was “essential” to rule out Chinese accession, despite an application to join from Beijing.

“I would expect the British government now or in the future to oppose any such proposal,” she said.

Britain’s drive to join the soon-to-be 12-nation bloc comes as part of a wider push foreign policy shift towards the Indo-Pacific, where China is increasingly active.

The U.K.’s membership, cleared in principle Thursday night, means it will have a vote on whether new applicants should be able to join. China launched a formal bid to join CPTPP in 2021.

But Truss warned that the bloc represented “an important counterweight to those who seek to undermine our values. In particular, the CPTPP is a vital economic bulwark against China and in due course I would like to see other like-minded free trading nations making their own applications to join.”

She’s not alone. Fellow China hawk and backbench Tory Iain Duncan Smith agreed that the U.K. should work to keep Beijing out of the deal.

“Now we are in CPTPP we should do our utmost to work with the others to veto China joining,” the (other) former Conservative leader said. “We should persuade the U.S. to join as well.” The United States ditched CPTPP in its early stages under Donald Trump.”

But another Conservative China hawk argued there was no need for Britain to weigh in on potential Chinese membership.

“A lot of the other CPTPP members know much better than we do what the problem with China is,” they said. “I don’t think they need us to come in and toughen them up at all.”

It comes after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt on Friday issued a veiled warning to China.

Asked on Sky News whether Beijing should be allowed in the club, he said it was “a decision for all the members of that bloc, and all I would say is that Britain now has a vote in deciding that. And that shows that our influence in that part of the world is becoming more significant.”

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