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The great free trade agreement, boycotted by Trump, is the heir to the TPP promoted by Obama in an anti-Chinese key. China asks member countries to reject the Taiwanese application for entry. Taipei: the Chinese are “arch-bullies”, without the requirements to join the trade pact. Japan welcomes Taipei’s request. Beijing will have difficulty being accepted.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – A new collision course hasopened up between China and Taiwan after the two governments submitted their application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The free trade agreement is the heir to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) sought by former US President Barack Obama to counter China’s geopolitical rise.
After Trump’s withdrawal in 2017, Japan, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam are part of the CPTPP. At the end of the month, the group will open negotiations for Britain’s membership.
Taipei submitted its request on Sept. 22, six days after the one delivered by Beijing. China’s Foreign Ministry said yesterday that China strongly opposes any attempt by Taiwan to join a multilateral agreement or join an official organization. Beijing called on CPTPP countries to reject Taiwan’s bid, a move the island’s government said was worthy of an “arch-rival.”
China considers Taiwan a “rebellious” province; Xi Jinping has not ruled out taking it back by force if necessary. The Taiwanese government noted that Beijing immediately sent a signal of strength. Yesterday, 24 Chinese military aircraft entered Taiwan’s defensive air identification zone. The air raid was carried out in two sorties to the southwest of the island, near the Taipei-controlled Dongsha (Pratas) Islands. According to the Taiwanese Defense Ministry, Beijing has sent fighter jets and strategic bombers, as well as anti-submarine, electronic warfare and transport aircraft. Chinese air raids near Taiwan have intensified over the past year.
The eventual acceptance of Beijing in the trade mega-bloc would torpedo the possibilities of the island’s participation. Negotiators in Taipei are confident, however; they point out that the opaque and dirigist nature of China’s economic system is not in line with CPTPP norms and standards: an aspect already highlighted by Japan, which with the exit of the U.S. is the majority partner of the trade pact. Taiwan, on the other hand, has a Western-style free market, with transparent policies and a rule of law at its base.
To be accepted into the Cptpp, an applicant state must obtain the approval of all its members. However, as noted by Greg Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, Brunei and Malaysia do not currently have voting rights, having not yet ratified the treaty. The two countries, Poling notes, are very “vulnerable” to pressure from China, and their absence in the acceptance process increases Taiwan’s chances of entry.
Japan has already made it clear that it sees no technical problems with Taiwan’s accession, given that the CPTPP agreement also provides for the possible participation of “separate customs territories,” the formula by which Taipei entered the World Trade Organization (of which China is also a member). Responding to a tweet from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, former Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe said that Tokyo must support Taiwan’s application; Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi stressed that the government welcomes Taipei’s application.
China will also have trouble getting the green light from CPTPP nations. With many of them (Japan, Australia, Canada and Vietnam being the most prominent), Beijing has delicate territorial, commercial or political disputes. According to analysts, China wants to participate in the Cptpp to gain even more centrality in the Asia-Pacific region and prevent the eventual accession of Taiwan and the United States.