Taiwan, wanting to join Pacific trade pact, questions China’s ‘sudden’ application

An audience waves Taiwanese flags during the National Day celebrations in Taipei October 10, 2018. — Reuters pic
An audience waves Taiwanese flags during the National Day celebrations in Taipei October 10, 2018. — Reuters pic

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TAIPEI, Sept 17 — Taiwan’s economy minister expressed concern today about China’s “sudden” decision to apply to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), and said it hoped it did not affect the island’s application.

China filed to join the free trade agreement in a letter to New Zealand’s trade minister, Damien O’Connor.

Taiwan Economy Minister Wang Mei-hua told reporters in Taipei that China’s application had been “sudden”.

Many of China’s recent policies ran contrary to the principles of a free economy and lacked transparency, such as import bans “without a reason”, and China may not be able to reach the “high standards” of the CPTPP, she said.

“They also have friction with some CPTPP member states,” she said.

Taiwan has been making its own preparations to join the CPTPP and believes it will happen when conditions are right, Wang added.

“We will pay close attention to member countries’ reaction to China’s application and hope it does not affect our application to join.”

China claims Taiwan as its own territory and will not be pleased if Taipei is allowed to join the grouping before it.

The original 12-member agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), was and 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 withdrew.

The grouping, which was renamed the CPTPP, links Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Britain is also keen to join the trans-Pacific trade deal and in June began negotiations.

Taiwan is excluded from many international bodies because of China’s insistence that it is part of “one-China” rather than a separate country.

But Taiwan is a member of the World Trade Organization and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) grouping.

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. — Reuters

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