March 13 (UPI) -- China may be taking a special interest in a multilateral trade deal once led by the United States.
China, though not a member state of the original Trans-Pacific Partnership signed by 12 countries, has agreed to send a delegation to attend ministerial-level meetings in Chile.
Beijing's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a regular press briefing Monday that Chinese delegates are to "attend the two-day meetings on March 14-15, at the invitation of the Chilean government," led by Ambassador Yin Hengmin, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
But Hua said Yin's attendance does not mean China plans to become a signatory to the trade deal after the United States withdrew its support in January, when U.S. President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum.
"China hopes this meeting will contribute to the Asia-Pacific free trade zone, the building of open economies and the integration of Asia-Pacific economies," Hua said. "China's position on TPP remains unchanged."
After the United States withdrew support, the remaining 11 members of the trade deal agreed to meet in Vina del Mar in central Chile's Pacific coast.
The member states also extended an invitation to non-member South Korea, according to the report, a possible sign the countries were willing to recruit new members and draft a new framework for the multilateral trade deal without the United States.
The trade deal included clauses that would protect workers' rights and independent unions, which gave labor activists in countries like Vietnam hope for better working conditions, The New York Times reported.
China's free trade deal, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, does not include significant reforms to labor protection standards, according to Rajiv Biswas, an economist at IHS Global Insight.