US President Joe Biden’s administration has been acting behind the scenes to help Tokyo promote the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), in which Japan plays a leading role, in its rivalry with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is mainly promoted by Beijing.
Consequently, although a large number of countries have signed up to join the RCEP, nothing about it has been implemented. It exists in name, but is really dead in the water.
That prompted China’s unexpected application on Sept. 16 to join the CPTPP in an attempt to disrupt the anti-China agenda of Australia, Japan and the US.
However, China has slapped itself in the face in doing so, because its bid to join the bloc amounts to an admission that the RCEP exists in name only.
At the same time, Australia and Japan remain firmly on the anti-China side, so although China has applied to join their initiative and hopes to do so smoothly, there is really no chance of that happening.
The CPTPP is important to Taiwan’s efforts in uniting with its friends and allies in resisting China, and yet government officials have inexplicably dithered for so long that China applied first, after which they rushed to submit Taiwan’s application just four days later.
In spite of Japan’s insistence on calling Taiwan by its proper name during the Tokyo Olympics, Taiwan’s application has been submitted under the peculiar title of the “Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu” — the same title it uses in the WTO.
Hu Xijin (胡錫進), editor-in-chief of China’s state-run newspaper the Global Times, wrote on Twitter in English on Friday last week: “Taiwan applied to join the CPTPP. If Taiwan wants to use this process to reinforce its impact on the one-China policy, I can say with certainty that it cannot enter the CPTPP.”
Why did Taiwanese officials only dare to use the “Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu” title? Is it because they are scared of Hu, or is it that they actually share Hu’s point of view and are doing an inside job of intentionally hoodwinking and misleading President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文)?
Hu says that some of the CPTPP’s existing members are friends of China, and that if just one of them is against Taiwan joining, Taiwan would not get a foot in the door.
Hu must be thinking about Chile, which bravely used Chinese vaccines for COVID-19, and Malaysia, which said it would seek China’s views about the Australia, UK and US security agreement announced last month. He might be thinking that Brunei is also vulnerable to pressure from China. Although these countries have signed up for the CPTPP, they have not yet ratified it, so at present they have no right to vote in the organization.
The CPTPP has from the start been an anti-China alliance led by Japan, so it is ridiculous to try to make pro-China moves within it, and Australia, Japan and the US will definitely not allow such a thing to happen.
Taiwan has only itself to blame for delaying its application to the trade pact. Japan is friendly to Taiwan, but Taiwan has not responded likewise.
Because of the opposition party’s rabid hatred of Japan, coupled with government officials’ inaction, Taiwan has the tightest restrictions of any country in the world on Japanese food imports, while denigrating food from five Japanese prefectures as “nuclear food.”
The scientific reality is that Japanese food is subject to tests, and that radiation levels that might have been raised by the March 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster have long since fallen to safe levels that are even lower than many European foods. For example, the US ended all its restrictions on Japanese food imports starting from Wednesday last week.
The Democratic Progressive Party should do its duty as the ruling party and explain how irrational and absurd the opposition’s hatred of Japan really is.
Taiwan must stop denigrating its closest ally’s agricultural products so that it can remove an obstacle to joining the CPTPP, instead of misidentifying the obstacle and belittling itself as “Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu.”
Taiwanese should remember Japan’s attitude at the Tokyo Olympics and apply to join the CPTPP under the perfectly good title of “Taiwan.”
Tommy Lin is a physician and president of the Formosa Republican Association.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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