Taiwan Moves to Join Pacific Trade Pact Before China

By Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
September 23, 2021 Updated: September 23, 2021

Taiwan has formally applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) on Sept. 20, following China’s bid last week.

Taiwan submitted its application to New Zealand, who handles the paperwork for the trade bloc, but warned that if China’s application were approved, it would struggle to join the CPTPP.

Taiwan has been excluded from numerous international bodies because of pressure from Beijing for nations to abide by the One China policy—which sees the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) claims rulership over Taiwan.

The CPTPP is a trade bloc comprised of 11 nations covering 13.4 percent of global GDP.

Prospective members (including the United Kingdom, Thailand, and China) can gain entry only with unanimous support from all pact members, which currently includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

On the weekend, Australian and Japanese trade ministers expressed reluctance at the possibility of China joining the group due to its use of economic coercion against other nations, namely Australia.

Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan said China could not join until members were convinced of a “track record of compliance” with existing trade and World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreements. It would also require Beijing to resume high-level dialogue with Australia, he told Newscorp’s Weekend Australian.

“CPTPP parties would also want to be confident that an accession candidate would fully implement its commitments under the agreement in good faith,” Tehan said.

Japanese Deputy Finance Minister Kenji Nakanishi suggested in a post on Twitter that same day that Beijing’s subsidiaries of state-owned enterprises and its arbitrary application of law would hinder its efforts to join CPTPP.

“China … is far removed from the free, fair and highly transparent world of TPP, chances that it can join are close to zero,” he wrote in a Twitter post. “This can be thought of as a move to prevent Taiwan from joining.”

Chief Trade Negotiator John Deng said Beijing could obstruct Taiwan’s application.

“So, if China joins first, Taiwan’s membership case should be quite risky. This is quite obvious,” he told reporters on Sept. 23.

He noted that the island had a different system of governance from Beijing which focused on democracy, rule of law, transparency, and respect for personal property.

Taiwanese authorities have tried to avoid controversy when joining other groups, including its recent application to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), where it applied using the name: Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu.

“I stress that Taiwan is an sovereign, independent nation. It has its own name. But for trade deals the name we have used for years is the least controversial,” he said.