Taiwan could face China opposition as it seeks membership of Pacific trade group

Taiwan has applied to join an 11-nation Pacific trade group, Cabinet officials said, setting up a potential clash with rival Beijing over the status of the island democracy.

Taiwan’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership might be disrupted if China, which applied last week, is admitted first, said John Deng, a minister without portfolio.

The CPTPP, which took effect in 2018, includes agreements on market access, movement of labour and government procurement.

Other members include Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Singapore and New Zealand.

The mainland’s ruling Communist Party claims Taiwan as part of its territory and says its elected government has no right to conduct foreign relations.

“China has been obstructing Taiwan’s opportunities in the international arena,” said Mr Deng at a news conference.

“If China joins ahead of Taiwan, it will endanger Taiwan’s application.”

The CPTPP was the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a group promoted by then-president Barack Obama.

His successor, Donald Trump, pulled out in 2017.

President Joe Biden has not rejoined.

The skyline in Shanghai, China (Chen Si/AP)
The skyline in Shanghai, China (Chen Si/AP)

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since the Communist Party took control of the mainland in 1949 following a civil war.

They have extensive trade and investment ties but no official relations.

Mr Deng said Taiwan’s status as a democracy and market economy should count in its favour.

“Taiwan and China follow different systems of organisation.

“We are an integrated market economy,” he said.

“We have democracy and the rule of law backing us.

“Our laws are transparent to all.”

“The Taiwan region is an inalienable part of China,” said a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian.

“We are firmly opposed to any official contacts between Taiwan and other countries, as well as Taiwan’s accession to any agreements or organizations that are of an official nature.”