Taiwan, Not China, Should Join Pacific Trade Pact

September 20, 2021 Updated: September 20, 2021

Commentary

On Sept. 16, China’s commerce minister, Wang Wentao, submitted the country’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The CPTPP is the successor to the TPP, from which President Trump withdrew in 2017 due to concerns about China taking advantage of its state-run economy to wipe out American jobs and industry. CPTPP countries should likewise protect their economies from the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) predatory trade practices.

In yet another sign that New Zealand is too close to totalitarian China, the regime’s application was initially transmitted to Damien O’Connor, the New Zealand trade minister. New Zealand, along with Canada, both of which are overly compromised by the CCP, were left out of the new Australian, U.S., and UK security pact called AUKUS.

Eleven countries signed up for the CPTPP in 2018, including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The pact is also known as the TPP-11. Britain and Thailand have shown an interest in joining. The pact consciously excluded China from the beginning, as part of President Obama’s pivot to Asia. That exclusion should continue in order to protect the countries remaining in the agreement.

Beijing has in the past lobbied for inclusion in the CPTPP, arguing that the economies of China and Australia have particular complementarities. But Sino-Australian relations soured since Beijing attempted to use trade sanctions against Australia for the latter’s demand of a full inquiry into the origin of COVID-19. This points toward the risk of closer trade with China, which is opaque about its dangers, while attempting to use aggressive trade penalties against those who seek to protect themselves.

Thankfully, Japan appears to be against China’s admission, with Japan’s economy minister stating, “Japan believes that it’s necessary to determine whether China, which submitted a request to join the TPP-11, is ready to meet its extremely high standards.”

Japan’s state minister of finance wrote on Twitter: “China is far from the free, fair, and transparent world that TPP demands such as subsidies and regulatory incentives for state-owned enterprises, request for disclosure of source code to foreign enterprises, and arbitrary operation of laws. The possibilities are endless. This [application from Beijing] seems to be an action to prevent Taiwan from joining.”

Internationally acceptable standards for joining multilateral trade agreements should at minimum require countries to abjure military threats against other countries, cyber theft, and predatory trade practices, like dumping. But the CCP is just the opposite. As recently as Sept. 16, in response to the announcement of the AUKUS grouping, China’s nationalist CCP mouthpiece, the Global Times, published a nuclear threat against Australia. The author of the article wrote that the AUKUS’ agreement to make nuclear submarines available to Australia “will potentially make Australia a target of a nuclear strike if a nuclear war breaks out.”

Epoch Times Photo
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and U.S. President Joe Biden at a joint press conference via AVL from The Blue Room at Parliament, in Canberra, Australia, on Sept. 16, 2021. (Mick Tsikas/AAP Image)

A U.S. State Department spokesperson also had a negative reaction to China’s joining the pact. Though the United States defers to CPTPP countries on Beijing’s application to the group, according to the spokesperson, the United States “would expect that China’s non-market trade practices and China’s use of economic coercion against other countries would factor into CPTPP parties’ evaluation of China as a potential candidate for accession.”

The U.S. government is clearly downplaying the threat from the nuclear-armed totalitarian regime in Beijing.

The 15 countries that joined the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which Beijing leads, should immediately withdraw.

In a self-destructive manner, Australia is a member of the RCEP. Other members include Brunei, Burma (also known as Myanmar), Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. The CCP regime attacked South Korean forces in 1950, and Vietnam in 1979. It claimed the South China Sea exclusive economic zones of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam in 2009, as Chinese territory. It threatened war against the Philippines in 2017 over the issue. My sources say that Beijing funded and supplied terrorists in Burma as recently as 2020.

What will it take for these countries to realize that the CCP is far from being their friend, but only seeks advantage? Trading with the enemy is only empowering a regime that seeks the end to democracies and their friends.

Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, and South Korea, all of which have defense treaties with the United States, should be the first to quit the CCP’s “economic partnership.” Partnering with a militaristic, violent, genocidal, and totalitarian regime, in any manner, should be outside the bounds of ethical international behavior.

Not only are CPTPP and RCEP members risking their countries’ ethics and jobs, given China’s militarism, forced labor, low environmental standards, and predatory trade practices, but they are risking their sovereignty should the CCP someday use the CPTPP and RCEP as a foot in the door toward forcing members into closer political integration. Economic integration tends toward the kind of political influence that can turn into political leadership when it is wielded by authoritarian countries. Countries that value their freedom should find other more democratic, or less powerful, countries with which to trade.

Taiwan would be a good alternative. It is also seeking to join CPTPP, and rightly expressed concern about the application from Beijing.

Economic engagement is not making China more peaceful or observant of human rights. Just the opposite. It is making China more authoritarian and powerful. The more powerful it gets, the less the regime in Beijing needs to maintain the pretense of being a responsible member of the international community.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Anders Corr
Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. He authored “The Concentration of Power” (forthcoming in 2021) and “No Trespassing,” and edited “Great Powers, Grand Strategies.”