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There is a “risk” to Taiwan’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) if China joins first, Taiwan’s chief trade negotiator John Deng says.
Taiwan formally applied to join the partnership on Wednesday, less than a week after China, the world’s second largest economy.
The island is excluded from many international bodies because of China’s insistence that it is part of “one-China” rather than a separate country.
Deng told reporters on Thursday that China always tries to obstruct Taiwan’s participation internationally, but that there was no direct connection between China’s application last week and Taiwan’s.
He added that Taiwan, a major semiconductor producer, has applied to join under the name it uses in the World Trade Organization – the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu.
Taiwan is a member of the WTO and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) grouping.
Deng said he was not able to predict when Taiwan may be allowed to join the CPTPP.
Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng said they had informed the CPTPP’s members of their decision to apply to seek their support and that Premier Su Tseng-chang had asked ministries to make preparations for talks.
Taiwan Economy Minister Wang Mei-hua last week expressed concern about China’s “sudden” decision to apply to join CPTPP and said she hoped it did not affect the island’s own application.
The original 12-member agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), was seen as an important economic counterweight to China’s growing influence.
But the TPP was thrown into limbo in early 2017 when then-US president Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the pact.
The grouping, which was renamed the CPTPP, currently links Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
The United Kingdom is also keen to join the trans-Pacific trade deal and in June began negotiations.
Taiwan has been heartened by recent progress towards trade agreements with the United States and the European Union, which are both frustrated with China’s lack of progress in opening its economy and are keen to show their support for Taiwan’s democracy and much freer market policies.
Australian Associated Press