Expansion has been baked into the DNA of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership. But the ongoing United Kingdom accession has revealed how challenging the process is in practice for the members as other countries have joined the queue.
From Four to Eleven
From the start of negotiations, officials working on what would become the CPTPP recognised the importance of including an accession clause to allow new members to join the deal.
Chile, New Zealand and Singapore demonstrated the importance of adding members when Brunei was included near the end of talks for what was then called the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership or TPSEP in 2006.
TPSEP, colloquially known as the P4, concluded without agreement on two chapters—on financial services and investment. In 2008, the United States asked to join negotiations for these two elements.
By the time participants gathered for the first round of talks in early 2010, additional members for a wholly new agreement included Australia, Malaysia, Peru, and Vietnam. Canada, Japan and Mexico joined later.
The final text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2016 contained a relatively short section on accession, its article 30. Formally membership was open to APEC members and other states and separate customs territories and provided some information about the process of creating and concluding a working party process for accession.
When the United States withdrew from the TPP, the revised agreement got a new name, CPTPP, and two dozen adjusted provisions.
The CPTPP legal text, which is only nine pages in length and incorporates the TPP text by reference, has a new Article 5 on accession. It dropped the explicit reference to APEC, opening up accession to a wider set of possible members, but made no other adjustments to TPP’s article 30.4.
The CPTPP entered into force in December 2018. Members has so far largely focused on getting as many of the original signatory countries to complete their domestic ratification procedures to become full members. Malaysia will become the 9th participating member in December 2022.