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Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi said that his country ‘welcomes Taiwan’s application to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership’
By Angelica Oung / Staff reporter
Taiwan’s economy, with a successful application to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), stands to grow by 2 percent, National Development Council Minister Kung Ming-hsin (龔明鑫) said yesterday.
The nation has applied to the Japan-led trade bloc under the name “Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu,” Minister Without Portfolio John Deng (鄧振中) told a news conference in Taipei yesterday.
“It’s the least controversial name and the same one under which we joined the WTO,” said Deng, who also serves as head of the Cabinet’s Office of Trade Negotiations.
Photo: Lee Hsin-fang, Taipei Times
The 11-member trade bloc recommended that Taiwan rush its application after China also applied for membership on Thursday last week.
“We have chosen to apply in our own time, but of course there was the worry that it would be more difficult if China gained entry first,” Deng said.
However, Deng said he believes that the CPTPP member states review applications on a case-by-case basis and based on whether an applicant meets the bloc’s standards.
Taiwan applied on Wednesday via its representative in New Zealand, who sent the accession form to the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
New Zealand acts as the legal depositary for the bloc, and is responsible for circulating the application among its member states.
Taiwan would next begin accession talks with all 11 CPTPP members, seeking their support and learning about which issues each member state is most concerned, Deng said, adding that he could not estimate how long it might take for Taiwan to join the trade bloc, given the uncertainties of the accession process.
While tech products are mostly tariff-free under WTO rules, traditional industry could benefit from Taiwan joining the pact, while agriculture would suffer, Kung said.
“We can expect a gain of about 2 percent to our GDP if we join the CPTPP, and a negative impact of 0.56 percent if we don’t,” he said.
Kung’s modeling assumes that the UK, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines would eventually join the trade bloc, even if Taiwan does not.
Not every industry would benefit, but traditional industries such as petroleum, plastics, metals, chemicals and services would face greater trade barriers if the nation is not part of the bloc, he said.
“Our models show that CPTPP membership would hit agriculture, and the automotive and auto parts sectors the hardest,” Kung said.
Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) said that while tariff protection for agricultural products would drop, there would be a buffer period, while some products would remain protected.
“Looking at the examples of Japan and Vietnam, we see the drop in tariffs phased in over 16 to 21 years,” Chen said. “Vietnam and Japan retain 3 percent and 2.8 percent tariffs respectively on products, mostly agriculture, that are not zero-tariff.”
Tokyo has responded favorably to Taiwan’s CPTPP announcement, with Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi telling reporters in New York City yesterday that “Japan welcomes Taiwan’s application to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”
Separately yesterday, China said that it opposed Taiwan joining the trade bloc.
“We firmly oppose any country having official exchanges with Taiwan and firmly oppose the Taiwan region’s accession to any official treaties or organizations,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) told reporters.
The trade bloc’s signatories are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Additional reporting by AFP and CNA
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