Taiwan talks on the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement after its exclusion from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement

Taipei: The island’s chief trade negotiator said Monday that trade-dependent Taiwan has made “relatively” good progress toward joining the revised version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but is waiting for clearer rules on membership.

While it is a member of the World Trade Organization, many countries are wary of signing trade agreements with Taiwan for fear of objections from China, which claims the democratic island is its territory, and Taiwan has sought to increase access to multilateral deals.

Fifteen economies in the Asia-Pacific region formed the world’s largest free trade bloc on Sunday, the China-Backed Regional Economic Partnership (RCEP), which does not include the United States or Taiwan.

Instead, Taiwan – a powerhouse of technology – is seeking to join the 11-nation Comprehensive and Advanced Agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which was signed in 2018, again without the United States.

Taiwanese Minister Without Portfolio, John Deng, who is leading the trade talks, told reporters that they have expressed their willingness to join CPTPP.

“The countries that have made relatively good progress (in applying for membership) include Britain, Taiwan and Thailand, and many have welcomed Taiwan’s hard work,” Ding said.

“They hope that we will stay in touch,” he said, adding that Taiwan was awaiting the CPTPP gathering to establish “clearer rules” on the membership application.

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

Its name has been changed to the Comprehensive and Advanced Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and links Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Taiwan has played down RCEP’s impact on its economy, saying that 70% of its exports to RCEP member countries, mostly electronic products, are already duty-free.

Taiwan eventually hopes to sign a free trade agreement with the United States, its main arms seller and most important international supporter, and the two sides will hold high-level economic talks this weekend.

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