China, South Pacific trade talks being explored

  • China and a group of South Pacific island countries could start talks in 2023 toward their first formal trade agreement, according to an official from a regional network of nations.
  • But while such talks could provide a boost to Beijing’s offshore economic ambitions as US influence spreads in the region, a potential pact is not expected any time soon.
  • The idea of a trade deal is in its “embryonic stage”, said Zarak Khan, director of programmes and initiatives with the secretariat of the 18-member Pacific Islands Forum.
  • Negotiations could span years. For instance, China began gathering support for the world’s biggest trade pact – the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership – in 2012. That deal, which was similarly seen as a bid to counter growing US influence in the Asia-Pacific region, took a decade to hammer out.
  • China is world renowned for its ability in the digital economy area. This is of particular interest to the South Pacific, as some of the biggest companies in the world are operating in China, and the region hopes China can share their capacity, in terms of business-to-business exchanges, with the Pacific region.

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