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China begins TPP groundwork as UK moves closer to entry

Beijing reportedly reaches out to New Zealand and Singapore on trade bloc membership

A foreman works at a container terminal of Qingdao port. (cnsphoto via Reuters)

TOKYO/BEIJING/LONDON -- Wednesday's decision to begin talks on having the U.K. join the Trans-Pacific Partnership has refocused attention on the 11-member trade agreement's expansion plans, as China puts out unofficial feelers about getting on board.

The group's top decision-making body agreed in a virtual meeting to set up a working group to review whether London meets the necessary standards in areas such as tariffs and investment rules, which could take nearly a year. Unanimous agreement from countries that have ratified the deal is needed to admit new members.

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