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Trade Minister Dan Tehan says Taiwan will need to show it can keep liberalisation “at the heart” of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership to be successful in its bid to join the agreement.
Trade Minister Dan Tehan says the United Kingdom will be treated as an example to countries hoping to join one of Australia’s most formidable trade partnerships after Taiwan also lodged a formal application earlier this year.
The UK’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTTP or TTP) is currently under assessment by 11 member states, including Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia and New Zealand.
Mr Tehan said the main objective of all member states in the process was to ascertain that the applicant nation was committed to upholding the CPTPP’s “gold standards”.
“We have a unique regional trade arrangement that we are a member of and it’s one that puts liberalisation at its heart. Now we want to make sure that that continues,” he told Sky News Australia host Chris Kenny.
He further highlighted that how the UK moves through the accession process will set the standard for following applications, including Taiwan’s.
Mr Tehan revealed had been constantly engaged with the UK since it placed its bid and has held some “very tough discussions” about what will need to be done “to meet those standards”.
“We are very much using that to say to anyone else who’ll be looking to come into CPTPP ‘you are going to have to meet these gold standards’.”
The Trade Minister was hopeful the UK will be able to meet the necessary standards but warned the discussions are still ongoing.
Taiwan confirmed its appeal to join the trade partnership in September, which the nation’s leader said “reflects our commitment to promoting free trade in the Asia-Pacific”.
President Tsai Ing-wen further tweeted she was confident Taiwan’s membership “would strengthen joint economic development & benefit people across the region & the world.”
The move sparked outrage from Beijing, who had just earlier also submitted an application to join the CPTPP, a warning to countries like Australia who supported Taiwan’s bid soon following.
“There is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at the time.
“China firmly opposes all official interactions with Taiwan, firmly rejects Taiwan‘s accession to any agreement or organisation of official nature. China’s position on this issue is clear.”
Probed on Thursday night as to whether China’s reaction to Taiwan’s application was likely to sway members’ decision, Mr Tehan said all parties had been “very clear” the UK would be used as an example.
“That’s why their accession is going first, that’s what will dictate and determine accession is meeting those gold standards and that commitment, and that real commitment to liberalisation.”
He further stressed the decision would be guided by ensuring the CPTPP remained “the gold standard agreement in the Indo-Pacific.”
“Now it’s a consensus based decisions of all the current members to make sure that those gold standards are upheld, so whether it be Taiwan, whether it be China.”
While Canberra is yet to hold further talks with Taiwan since the island nation lodged its formal application, Mr Tehan said he was confident the matter would be on the agenda the next time they spoke.
Australia’s commitment to Taiwan was called into question by former prime minister Paul Keating when he told the National Press Club there was no formal alliance with Taipei.
“There’s no document you can find. We do not recognise it as a sovereign state,” he said on Wednesday.
“ANZUS commits us to consult in the event of an attack on US forces but not an attack by US forces, which means Australia should not be drawn, in my view, into a military engagement over Taiwan, US-sponsored or otherwise.”
Speaking to Mr Keating’s remarks, Mr Tehan firstly noted the former prime minister had been very hard on his own Labor party “for basically not having a policy themselves, basically all they’re trying to do is hide behind the government”.
“What he’s really saying is they’re weak.”
The Trade Minister pointed out that in contrast, the Morrison Government had been clear in its desire to negotiate and engage in the Indo-Pacific “from a position of strength”.
“That is what everything we’re doing is about, making sure that we’ve got a resilient economy, making sure that we’ve diversified our trade, making sure that we’ve put a partnership in place.
“We want to make sure as a nation that we are positioning ourselves for the geo-strategic competition that’s taking place in the Indo-Pacific to be in the strongest position that we can.”