Taiwan has formally submitted its application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), merely a week after China’s application.
Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua said Taiwan will start accession talks with all 11 members of the trade bloc, seeking their support and learning the pressing issues each member state concern about most.
According to Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng, “most of the CPTPP’s member countries are Taiwan’s key trade partners, accounting for over 24% of Taiwan’s international trade.”
Accounting for around 13.5% of the global economy, CPTPP is one of the world’s biggest free-trade groups, which was signed by 11 Asia-Pacific member nations in 2018. The CPTPP was initially led by the US as a way to counter China’s influence in the Asia-Pacific region. But the US later pulled out from the bloc, under the Trump presidency. The current members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
China – potential political roadblock
Taiwan’s move to join the trade bloc is widely expected to be opposed by Beijing.
Taiwan’s government said that China would likely pose a major obstacle for Taiwan’s application if it secures membership first. Any new member requires the unanimous approval of all members to join the pact.
The relationship between the two countries is complicated. The Chinese government regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that will eventually become part of the country again. Taiwan considers itself as an independent nation.
“China has been obstructing Taiwan’s international presence. If China is admitted into CPTPP ahead of us, it will definitely risk Taiwan’s entry to the trade bloc. It’s a very obvious fact,” top Taiwan trade negotiator John Deng said at a news conference on Thursday morning.
“Taiwan’s application is mainly for our own interests, our companies’ interests and for our own long-term economic planning purposes, and it has nothing to do with other countries. We have the foundation of democracy and the rule of law so all our regulations are transparent and we respect private properties,” Deng added.
Within the CPTPP first disagreements are already emerging. While Singapore and Malaysia welcomed China’s application, Mexico and Australia expressed reservations. Meanwhile, Japan welcomed Taipei’s bid to join the trade pact.