Chinese state media criticises US plan for Indo-Pacific digital trade deal

Chinese state media outlets have called the discussions a bid to protect US hegemony and the profits of tech companies.
Chinese state media outlets have called the discussions a bid to protect US hegemony and the profits of tech companies. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - Chinese state media outlets have criticised the United States over discussions for a digital trade agreement among Indo-Pacific economies, calling them a bid to protect American hegemony and the profits of tech companies.

Agreements signed by the US "invariably serve the US' bid to defend its hegemony - a magic word incorporating security, values and interests - while to the signatory countries, these US-dominated agreements are more like shackles restricting trade and their freedom of cooperation", China Daily said in an editorial published online on Tuesday (July 13) evening.

The English-language newspaper said since Washington cannot decouple the US economy from China's, "it is therefore absurd for it to try to force other countries to do that without finding them new sources of goods, services and capital to fill the vacuum caused by it (and) forcing them to sever ties with China".

The Biden administration is discussing proposals for a digital trade agreement as it seeks ways to check China's influence in the region, according to people familiar with the plans. Details of the potential agreement are still being drafted, but the pact could include countries such as Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore.

The deal could set out standards for the digital economy, including rules on the use of data, trade facilitation and electronic customs arrangements.

The state-run Global Times said in an opinion piece that "the US is fixated on grouping together small circles and portraying China as a 'common enemy' in the digital economic sector to lure other countries into a group building on its own rules".

It added: "By being in a position to set the rules, the US, as a front runner in digital technology and economy could help guarantee the excess earnings of American digital giants and maintain its hegemonic status."

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a news briefing on Tuesday in Beijing that he was not aware of any proposal but added that a potential agreement "violates the laws of economy and the shared aspiration of countries in the region".

"It fully exposes its plot to gang up against China and contain its development and obstruct the common development of countries in the region," he said. "It is doomed to fail."