Taiwan has filed an application to join a key Asia-Pacific trade pact just days after China submitted an application. But it warned that its bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) could be put at risk should China join first.
The two places have a complicated relationship. Taiwan considers itself as an independent nation, but China regards it as a breakaway province. On Thursday, Taiwan’s chief trade negotiator John Deng told reporters that if China joined the CPTPP first, “Taiwan’s case to become a member will be at risk, this is fairly obvious”.
The unanimous approval of all 11 members is needed for new countries to join the pact. On Thursday, Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters that he welcomed Taiwan’s application to join the pact, said a Kyodo News report.
The CPTPP was initially created by the US to counter China’s influence – but the US later pulled out under then US President Donald Trump. It is one of the largest of its kind, linking a wide swathe of countries across the region.
China has not yet commented on Taiwan’s application – though it has in the past often insisted that Taiwan be excluded from many international bodies or to be labelled as part of China.
This has sometimes resulted in Taiwan joining under different names. For instance, its team competes under the name of Chinese Taipei in the Olympics.
Taiwan has also applied to join the CPTPP under the name it uses in the World Trade Organization (WTO) – the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen.
Both China and Taiwan’s applications come after the US, UK and Australia recently announced a controversial security deal, in an effort seen to counter Chinese influence in Asia-Pacific.
The Aukus pact will allow Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, using technology provided by the US and the UK.
China has criticised Aukus, with foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian saying the alliance risked “severely damaging regional peace… and intensifying the arms race”.
The original Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was promoted by then-President Barack Obama as an economic bloc to challenge China’s increasingly powerful position in the Asia Pacific.
After Mr Trump pulled the US out of the deal, Japan led negotiations to create what became the CPTPP. The CPTPP was signed in 2018 by 11 countries, including Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan and New Zealand.