Taiwan jostling with China to join coveted Pacific trade pact amid surging tensions

China ready to annex Taiwan by 'any means possible'

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Damien O’Connor, New Zealand’s trade minister, confirmed an application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) was filed by China last week. Ironically, when the trade agreement was signed in 2018 and known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the goals was to be an economic counterweight to China’s growing influence.

But the TPP was thrown into limbo in early 2017 when then-US President Donald Trump withdrew from the pact.

Taiwan had eyes on a seat at the table and was making “preparation for talks” reports Reuters.

Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng said they had informed the CPTPP’s members of their decision to apply to seek their support.

“Applying to join the CPTPP is an important economic and trade policy that the government has worked hard to promote for a long time,” Lo said in a statement.

Last week, Taiwan Economy Minister Wang Mei-hua 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.

She said several Chinese policies ran contrary to the principles of a free economy, as requested by the CPTPP.

China may not be able to reach the “high standards” of the CPTPP, she said.

“They also have friction with some CPTPP member states.

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

Tensions around the island have been mounting since President Xi Jinping vowed in 2019 to “reunify” Taiwan with the Chinese mainland, using force if necessary.

China will not be pleased if Taipei is allowed to join the grouping before it.

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

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The island is nonetheless a member of the World Trade Organization and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) grouping.

The CPTPP’s commission will have to study the requests of China, Taiwan and also the UK who applied to join the agreement in February 2021.

The grouping currently links Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

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