Taiwan has applied to join a major transpacific trade pact just after a week after China filed its own membership bid, pitting the two adversaries against each other in a race to join.
The formal request by Taiwan to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) will force other members of the pact into a delicate political balancing act.
“We submitted the formal application this afternoon,” an official in Taiwan’s presidential office told the Financial Times on Wednesday.
A senior Taiwanese trade policy official confirmed that the application had been sent to New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which handles CPTPP membership requests.
The almost simultaneous requests by China and Taiwan create more rivalry at a time of high tension between the two. Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory and threatens to invade it if Taiwan refuses unification indefinitely.
The Chinese government frequently pressures third countries as well as international organisations, non-governmental bodies and commercial enterprises to help isolate Taipei and deny it any participation in international affairs in its own right.
Trade experts in Taiwan and Japan said that although the membership of both China and Taiwan in the World Trade Organization was a precedent for having both countries participate in a trade agreement, Beijing’s power and political assertiveness was now much greater, making a CPTPP deal for both more politically complex.
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