Taiwan’s prospect for entry into the US-led Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) hinges on China, and the process is likely to be delayed because China itself is unlikely to join the trading bloc in the near future, US analysts said.
With the US and the 11 other members continuing to press ahead with a TPP deal, proposals were recently made to the US to include Taiwan in the negotiations to keep the nation from being marginalized.
US Senator Robert Menendez asked the US trade representative to incorporate Taiwan into the ongoing negotiations, and former vice president Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) proposed that the two countries establish a team to facilitate Taiwan’s access to the group.
Asked by the Taipei Times for comments on proposals in Washington earlier this month, a US trade official said remarks by Menendez and Siew are “fine,” but “better addressed to the Taiwanese government.”
The US is not in a situation to ease the pathway for Taiwan, he said.
“It’s not how it works for Japan, Canada, Mexico or Malaysia,” he added, referring to the process by which those countries were admitted to the TPP.
In each case of joining, the country must go through the democratic process to determine whether its people want to join, make its interests known to all TPP members, then begin consultations with each member, the official said.
Brookings Institution Global Economy and Development fellow Joshua Meltzer said China is always a factor in decisions, regardless of whether Taiwan is economically ready to join the TPP or not.
China’s response to Taiwan’s seeking TPP membership is a separate from whether Taiwan can meet the economic requirements to join the TPP, Meltzer said.
China’s reaction will also have a bearing on the US, he said, although it is too early to conclude how the US will respond to Taiwan’s request.
Meltzer added that Taiwan’s focus should be on reforming its trading policies and practices for the short to medium-term to ensure they conform to rules being developed in preparation for TPP membership, Meltzer added.
Nicholas Hope, director of the Stanford Center for International Development and the China research program, said that China plays a decisive role in Taiwan’s potential TPP membership.
“The US recognizes that Taiwan is inalienable from China and it hasn’t supported the notion that Taiwan is an independent country,” Hope said recently at a Stanford University press discussion.
“The thing that will make Taiwan eligible [to join the TPP] is the Chinese government saying that Taiwan is an independent custom area and should be able to negotiate membership in the TPP,” he said.
A recent analysis written by Brookings senior fellow Richard Bush proposed the WTO model as a possibility, suggesting Taiwan and China join the TPP simultaneously, just as they did for WTO.
A shift in attitude toward the TPP was visible in June when Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) requested information on TPP negotiations and asked US President Barack Obama to ensure transparency in the process and to keep China informed when they met at Sunnylands in California.
However, the possibility of China joining the TPP in the near future may seem unrealistic to some US analysts, who said the US is cautions regarding China’s presence in the negotiations, while China remains reluctant to join the TPP.