Former prime minister Tony Abbott has slammed China as a "predatory trader", claiming a UK membership to the Trans-Pacific Partnership might be the "catalyst" for the United States to consider recommitting to the multinational free trade agreement.
Appearing in front of a joint committee on Thursday as a private citizen, Mr Abbott weighed in on broadening the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), in the wake of a more unpredictable China that has "weaponised" trade.
The former Liberal prime minister said Australia's largest trading partner had "no conception of the rule of law domestically" and said further integration of China into the "world economic order" was the last thing needed for the region.
"China has been using trade to bully Australia, China has weaponised trade," Mr Abbott said.
"China sees trade as an arm of strategy and I can understand why, because it gives them leverage over other countries.
"I think the last thing we need is further integration of China into the world economic order."
Mr Abbott noted other democratic Asian nations such as Taiwan and South Korea should have swift access to trading under the CPTPP, but claimed an accession request by China should be revoked in light of the sanctions it has placed upon Australian exports.
"For us to even countenance China's entry into the TPP while it's maintaining the current boycotts on Australian goods would be wrong," he said.
"Not just wrong but a sign of weakness on our part."
The Chinese government has placed a number of crippling import tariffs on Australian products such wine, barley and thermal coal.
It is understood the trade spout erupted over the decision to ban Huawei from being part of the domestic communications network and Australia's lead call to establish a global investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Abbott, who is a special trade envoy for the British government, also argued for the Atlantic country to gain access to the region's trade agreement, to show the CPTPP was a globally open arrangement and not geographically closed off like the European Union.
"Frankly, I think it's a bit of a no-brainer bringing Britain into the TPP and I hope it can happen as quickly as possible," he said.
"Free trade is a win-win situation and more prosperity is a global good, and there is absolutely no reason why Britain should be excluded from the TPP, simply because it is not physically located within the Asia-Pacific region."
The UK is also pursuing a number global free trade agreements following Brexit which saw it exit from the EU trading block in 2020.
The CPTTP arrangement was coined under former US president Barack Obama, but was later ditched by the Trump administration.
Mr Abbott said during the Trump years, trade had become a "hot potato" issue due to the unfair playing field caused by China. He said UK membership could prompt the superpower to rejoin and bolster economic strength in the Asia-Pacific region.
"I think it was unfortunate that the TPP got caught up in all of that, given that, as originally conceived the TPP was about strengthening the democracies, not weakening the democracies," he said.
"I very much hope that the [inclusion] of the United Kingdom might be a catalyst for the United States to reconsider its non-membership of the TPP.
"I certainly think that it is high time to start beginning discussions with the United States about whether it might be in their national interests, as well as the interests of our region more generally, for them to reconsider their aloofness from the TPP, which was after all originally their idea."
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