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Crates of pineapples from Taiwan in a food storage and shipping facility
Trade with Taiwan has sparked rows with China before, such as when Beijing banned Taiwanese pineapples this yearImage: Sam Yeh/AFP

Taiwan applies to join Pacific trade deal after China

September 23, 2021

Taiwan has formally filed to join the trans-Pacific trade deal initially negotiated by the US. Intended to freeze China out, former President Donald Trump walked away from the deal — but now China and Taiwan want in.


Taiwan's Premier Su Tseng-chang announced Taiwan sent its application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) on Thursday.

The application, formally filed late Wednesday in New Zealand, will have to be approved by all member nations that form part of the free trade deal. Taiwan's most significant trade partners are part of the deal, but not all CPTPP member nations have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

China filed to join last week, though it has not yet been accepted as a member. China would oppose Taiwan's membership as it sees Taiwan as part of its own territory, not a separate country.

What is the CPTPP?

The CPTPP is an outgrowth of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal that was negotiated under the administration of then US President Barack Obama, only to be ripped up by his successor, Donald Trump, who disliked the multilateral agreements made by the previous administration.

As negotiated by the US, the TPP deal was designed to freeze Beijing out and impose higher trading costs on China. In exiting the deal, the US left a vacuum of influence on regional trade.

The CPTPP is the Pacific region's biggest free trade pact and accounts for around 13.5% of the global economy. As a successor agreement to the TPP, many US allies are involved including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Eleven nations' delegations signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in Santiago, Chile in March of 2018
Delegations from 11 nations signed the trade pact in March 2018Image: Jorgex Villegas/Xinhua/imago

Taiwan's trade diplomacy

Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-wen, swore to renew the work of participating in bilateral, multilateral and regional agreements, mainly as a way to push back against the island's diplomatic isolation through trade.

A self-governing democracy of 23.5 million people, Taiwan has been prevented from joining most international organizations because of China's objections. Beijing sees the island as part of its territory and opposes any move to recognize Taiwan as an independent nation.

"Taiwan can't be left out in the world and has to integrate into the regional economy." said Taiwan's Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng.

Audrey Tang | GMF talk

"We have the foundation of democracy and the rule of law, so all our regulations are transparent, and we respect private properties," said John Deng, Taipei's lead trade negotiator.

China's authoritarian leaders and the People's Liberation Army have ramped up economic, military and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan considerably since 2016, engendering support from Western countries

ar/sms (AFP, dpa)

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