Taiwan says on track to apply to join trans-Pacific trade pact

Tech-powerhouse Taiwan has been angling to join the 11-country CPTPP, signed in 2018. PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - Taiwan will submit an application to join the revamped version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership once it has finished informal consultations with its existing 11 members, talks which are ongoing, the island's foreign ministry said.

While a member of the World Trade Organisation, many countries are wary of signing trade deals with Taiwan fearing objections from China, which claims the democratic island as its own territory, and Taiwan has sought greater access to multilateral deals.

Tech-powerhouse Taiwan has been angling to join the 11-country Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), signed in 2018.

In a statement late Sunday (Dec 13), Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said that according to the processes of the CPTPP, new member applicants needed to complete informal talks with existing members first and "reach a consensus" before applying.

Those talks are ongoing, and member countries "already clearly understand our determination and steps to seeking membership, and the attitude is quite positive", the ministry said in a statement.

"Once the informal consultation with all member states is completed, we will formally submit an application for membership in accordance with the procedures," it added, without giving a timeframe.

The original 12-member agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), was thrown into limbo in early 2017 when US President Donald Trump withdrew.

It was renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and links Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

One potential problem for Taiwan could be a parallel application for membership from China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said last month his country would "actively consider" signing up for the CPTPP.

Mr Xi's comments came less than a week after China and 14 other Asia-Pacific economies signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in Hanoi to form the world's largest free-trade bloc.

Taiwan is not a member of that group.

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