An increasingly popular agreement . . .
Taiwan applied to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) on Wednesday, less than a week after China. Since coming into force in December 2018, the 11-member agreement has proved both popular and progressive. Earlier this year, both the U.K. and South Korea signaled interest in joining this high-standards agreement. The agreement is often juxtaposed to the Regional and Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP), which has differing visions for what multilateral free trade agreements should seek to accomplish. While some countries (Australia, Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam) have chosen to join both agreements, other countries such as Canada have not. This week’s applications by both China and Taiwan will test how much significance current member parties place on the values espoused in the CPTPP. The agreement is in force for Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Vietnam but has not yet been ratified by the remaining three members Brunei, Chile, and Malaysia.
A comprehensively progressive economy . . .
By many measures, Taiwan meets the standards of the CPTPP. Over the past few years, it has done its homework to ensure that its domestic laws align with the agreement’s requirements. From a standards and economic perspective, the inclusion of Taiwan is a no-brainer. Its current limited international status due to its tenuous relations with China, however, may prove a barrier. Nonetheless, there are a few workarounds. For example, the moniker under which Taiwan submitted its application, “the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu,” may present a path forward whereby other CPTPP member parties may approve of Taiwan’s accession without ever acknowledging its statehood status.
Canada’s inclusive trade agenda put to the test . . .
Canada for its part, should support accession to the CPTPP of any economy that is ready and able to meet CPTPP disciplines. The question for Canada will be to decipher how genuine economies are in embracing progressive standards in areas such as gender equality, Indigenous rights, labour rights, environmental issues, and state subsidies, among others. Canada, after all, famously added the words ‘Comprehensive and Progressive’ to the name of the agreement, stating that it did so to emphasize that these considerations are first and foremost in its trade agenda. There is safety in numbers, however, and Canada may well choose to wait for a majority of CPTPP member parties to agree before voicing its endorsement of Taiwan’s accession.
- Nikkei Asia: Taiwan submits bid to join CPTPP trade pact
- Reuters: Taiwan applies to join Pacific trade pact week after China
- South China Morning Post: Taiwan announces its application to join Pacific pact CPTPP days after Beijing’s request