0923: Taiwan’s Application for CPTPP Membership, China’s “Hostile” Import Ban on Taiwan’s Two Fruits

Taiwan Applies to Join CPTPP Trade Deal, Just Days After China’s Application

Taiwan has formally submitted its application to join one of the world’s biggest free-trade groups, the 11-nation Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Taiwan’s application for CPTPP membership followed that made by China less than a week ago on September 16, suggesting a rush by Taiwan in response to China’s bid.

Asked to comment, Taiwan’s Minister without Portfolio John Deng, the head of the Cabinet’s Office of Trade Negotiations, admitted that it will pose a major obstacle for Taiwan to join the trade bloc if China joins it first. Deng, however, said he believes all CPTPP member states will review each application on a case-by-case basis and based on whether the applicant is meeting all required standards.

Another big challenge facing Taiwan, Deng said, will be dealing with Taiwan’s decade-long ban on Japanese food imports from the areas affected by the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster. “We definitely need to face the issue once the Japanese side asks us to lift the ban,” Deng said, adding that Taiwan’s government will resolve the issue with Japan by safeguarding Taiwanese people’s health while following international standards and scientific evidence.

The CPTPP, which grew out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the U.S. left the pact in January 2017, is one of the world’s biggest trade blocs, representing a market of 500 million people and accounting for 13.5 percent of global trade. Its 11 signatories are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

After submitting its application, Taiwan will begin accession talks with all 11 CPTPP members to seek their support and learn about their most pressing concerns. Moreover, Taiwan’s government has already made building support among democratic allies in the region a crucial part of its efforts to counter rising pressure from China.

This has included Taiwan’s closer ties with CPTPP members such as Australia (which is in the midst of a trade dispute with China) and Japan (which is a key trading partner and the largest economy in the CPTPP). Last month, lawmakers from Japan’s ruling party backed Taiwan’s entry into the trade deal.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202109230005
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2021/09/23/2003764845

Taiwan Hopes to Use WTO Norms to Solve China’s “Hostile” Fruit Import Ban, While Questioning China’s Application for CPTPP Membership

Taiwan said it hopes to resolve technical plant quarantine issues with China based on World Trade Organization (WTO) norms following China’s ban on Taiwanese custard apples and wax apples that took effect on September 20.

Without prior warning, the sudden halt was announced by China on September 19, citing the discoveries of mealybugs in shipments of those fruits on “multiple occasions” this year, without providing any scientific evidence. The announcement follows a similar Chinese ban on Taiwanese pineapples imposed in February.

On September 22, Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture (COA) chief Chen Chi-chung said he hoped Taiwan and China could address the dispute by using WTO norms. Chen had said on September 19 that the COA was considering taking the wax apple and custard apple case to the WTO’s settlement mechanism, but he stopped short of saying that on September 22.

An unnamed Taiwan’s government official said China’s latest import ban on Taiwanese fruits is “obvious political retaliation” for recent improvements in Taiwan-US relations. The timing is especially suspicious, considering reports earlier this month that U.S. lawmakers have called for renaming Taiwan’s representative office in Washington to include the name “Taiwan.”

On September 19, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu tweeted that, following its series of military threats, China is now “weaponizing trade” by announcing an immediate ban on Taiwan’s two fruits, and this “hostile move” violates international trade norms! That should cast doubt over China’s application last week to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a free trade group. “China wants to join the high-standard CPTPP? Is this a joke?” Wu said.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/cross-strait/202109220008/
[2] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/cross-strait/202109200008
[3] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2021/09/20/2003764670
[4] Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/world/china/china-halts-taiwan-sugar-apple-wax-apple-imports-prevent-disease-2021-09-19/