OPINION-The policy of CPTPP applications: Beijing’s diplomacy and Taipei’s calculations
The demarches of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to request membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) on September 16 and Taiwan’s to follow suit on September 22 not only illustrated the intense rivalries between the two sides, but also the complex national and international politics that shapes their applications.
The CPTPP is a free trade organization made up of eleven countries, including Australia, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Mexico, Peru and Chile. It entered into force on December 30, 2018, after the countries concerned ratified the agreement in March of the same year. With the exception of a few agricultural products, almost all other industrial products are exempt from tax in the Member States. The CPTPP combines all the economies of the eleven states with US $ 13.5 trillion, or 13.4% of the world’s gross domestic product.
If China were allowed to join the CPTPP, the trade bloc would become much stronger than the present.
China has responded strongly and negatively to Taiwan’s request to join the CPTPP. On September 23, PRC Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijun said, âWe resolutely oppose any official interaction with Taiwan, and we resolutely oppose the Taiwan District to adhere to any official agreement and to any organization â(Ta Kung Pao, September 24, 2021). Zhao added that there is only one China in the world, the one-China principle is an internationally recognized principle, and this principle is the common consensus of international society.
PRC State Council Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson Zhu Fenglian on September 23 stressed that Taiwan District of China should use the one-China principle to participate in cooperation. regional economy. She added that China opposes the so-called “international space” as used by the Progressive Democratic Party (DPP) as a means of expanding its trade and trade relations and carrying out “independence” activities. “(Ta Kung Pao, September 24, 2021). She called on other countries around the world to properly handle the Taiwan issue and not provide any convenience or platform for Taiwan’s separatist activities.
Taiwan used the name âSeparate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu and Kinmen Mazuâ and sent its membership form to the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. New Zealand is a depository state for the CPTPP and responsible for forwarding all membership applications to all other member states.
According to Zhang Wensheng, deputy dean of the Taiwanese research institute at Xiamen University, the Taiwanese authorities must abide by the one-China principle and obtain the consent and support of the PRC government if they wish to join. an international organization such as the CPTPP. . Zhang added that the Taiwanese authorities are not qualified to join the CPTPP without first China participating in the trade organization. After China’s admission to the CPTPP, Beijing is expected to consider whether Taiwanese authorities would be allowed to apply and join the CPTPP.
Although Taiwan is eager to join the CPTPP, which is expected to add 2% to Taiwan’s growth rate, the impact on farmers and automakers would likely be huge. National Development Council Minister Kung Ming-hsin said on September 22 that while countries like the UK, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines could join the trade bloc but Taiwan could not do so, the Taiwanese economy would experience a drop in GDP of 0.5 to 0.6.
Taiwan has imposed trade restrictions on imports of Japanese agricultural products, especially those from Fukushima. His decision to seek CPTPP membership means Taiwan may have to remove all such restrictions in an effort to lobby for Japan’s support for joining the CPTPP. Still, if Taiwan lifts such a restriction on imports from Japan, some local and Taiwanese farmers would likely object.
Taiwan has also adopted a tariff protection policy for 20 agricultural products, such as corn, bananas, pears and mushrooms – protection that accounts for 46 percent of total agricultural production. If Taiwan succeeds in joining the CPTPP, Taiwan would not only have to eliminate its tariffs on various agricultural products, but also see a significant increase in agricultural imports. Some observers believe that the impacts of the CPTPP on Taiwan’s agricultural sector would be enormous.
Taiwan has not applied to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) of which China is one of the 15 members, but its application for membership in the CPTPP clearly has political considerations. First, it bypasses China to try to join the huge economic bloc – a struggle for power and “international space”. Second, the ruling DPP appears to be making a political gesture towards its national opponent, the Kuomintang or KMT, in which the election for the post of party chairman was hotly contested between moderate Eric Chu and pro-reunification Chang Ya-chong. . The DPP has conveyed the message that it is striving to acquire more âinternational spaceâ rather than seeking closer politico-economic relations with the continent. Third, the DPP seeks support from Japan to enter the CPTPP. On September 25, Japanese Minister of Economic and Fiscal Policy Yasutoshi Nishimura told a press conference that âwe regard Taiwan as a very important partner with whom we share fundamental values ââsuch as freedom, democracy. , fundamental human rights and the rule of law. ”
Under the DPP regime, the Taiwanese authorities used ideological affinity with Western-style democracies, such as Japan, to conduct their foreign relations and gain more international friends. As such, Taiwan’s application for CPTPP membership is a political decision, even though the economic value of CPTPP membership would result in agricultural losses for domestic farmers.
Indeed, the crux of the problem with Taiwan’s attempt to increase its “international space” is that the DPP authorities still do not recognize the 1992 consensus reached by the mainland and Taiwan.
Critics of the PRC have highlighted its difficulties in meeting the CPTPP’s membership criteria, including its non-market practices and the operation of state-owned enterprises. Nonetheless, some observers believe that by applying to join the CPTPP, China is determined to reform its domestic economic practices, advancing economic liberalization through various means, such as the continued reform of state-owned enterprises and the consolidation of protection of the economy. Intellectual property. In other words, the PRC’s candidacy for CPTPP is a way to accelerate and deepen its internal and external economic liberalization. China would probably ratify International Labor Organization conventions sooner or later, following Vietnam’s practices. In fact, Vietnam has expressed its intention to share its experiences with China by joining the CPTPP.
On the other hand, Sino-Canadian relations just broke through with the Chinese release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor on September 24, when Huawei executive Sabrina Meng was simultaneously released from Canada after admitting her wrongdoing in a fraud case in the United States. . As such, Canada would likely not be a key country to resist China’s entry into the CPTPP. On the contrary, Australia and Japan may be two countries that are relatively reluctant to apply the PRC. Australia has expressed its view that it would not be prepared to consider the PRC’s application by the PRC unless Beijing removes its retaliatory tariffs on Australian products. Japan’s open support for Taiwan and its military vigilance over the PRC’s military movements near Taiwan could deteriorate Sino-Japanese relations, constituting another possible obstacle to China’s entry into the CPTPP.
The United States, allies of Japan and Taiwan, resist the entry of the PRC into the CPTPP. Although the United States under Donald Trump’s administration withdrew from the CPTPP in January 2017, its State Department spokesman, Ned Price, said on September 24 that Taiwan had been shown to be a “responsible member. From the World Trade Organization, and that “Taiwan’s strong adherence to democratic values ââwould be factored into the CPTPP parties’ assessment of Taiwan as a potential candidate for membership.”
In conclusion, China’s application for membership in the CPTPP has met with political resistance. Without accepting the 1992 consensus, Taipei sought to join the CPTPP; however, the economic costs of CPTPP membership are hidden as Taiwan’s agricultural sector would likely be deeply affected. Yet the Taiwanese authorities are steeped in political calculations, especially since the ruling regime wants to increase its so-called “international space” in front of its national supporters and opponents. Yet the PRC’s demand for membership in the CPTPP cannot be underestimated, as Beijing wishes to deepen and accelerate its domestic economic liberalization. While a few countries may be reluctant to support China’s request for membership in the CPTPP, it remains to be seen how Beijing will conduct its united front foreign policy towards the eleven CPTPP countries in the years to come. After all, applying for CPTPP membership is an important signal of China’s determination to embrace economic globalization on the outside and continued economic liberalization on the inside.