China communist party paper says country should join U.S.-led trade pact

BEIJING (Reuters) - China should join at an appropriate time the U.S.-backed regional trade accord the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as its broad aims are in line with China's own economic reform agenda, an influential Communist Party newspaper said on Sunday. China is not among the 12 Pacific Rim countries who earlier this month agreed the trade pact, the most ambitious in a generation. The accord includes Australia and Japan among economies worth a combined $28 trillion. China's trade minister has said the country does not feel targeted by it, but will evaluate the likely impact comprehensively. In a commentary, the biweekly Study Times, published by the Central Party School that trains rising officials, admitted there were those in China who viewed the TPP as a "plot" to isolate and restrain the country's global ambitions. But the broad aims of the TPP, including reducing things such as administrative approvals and protecting the environment, were what China wants to achieve too, it wrote. China has been trying to shift to a more sustainable, ecologically-sound, consumption-led economic growth model. "The rules of the TPP and the direction of China's reforms and opening up are in line," the newspaper said. "China should keep paying close attention and at an appropriate time, in accordance with progress on domestic reform, join the TPP, while limiting the costs associated to the greatest degree," it added. However, how China's state-owned industries might be affected by joining the TPP would need careful consideration, as the party has made clear their key role in the economy, the newspaper said. Beijing has been pushing its own trade pact, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a proposed 16-nation free-trade area that would be the world's biggest such bloc, encompassing 3.4 billion people. RCEP, which comprises the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations club plus six others - China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand - is a Beijing-backed trade framework that has gained prominence as an alternative to U.S. plans. The TPP aims to cut trade barriers and set common standards from Vietnam to Canada. But it has also been pitched as a way to counter China's rising economic and political clout in the region. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)