Taiwan to closely monitor CPTPP membership discussions: MOFA

FILE - In this March 8, 2018 file photo, from left, Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang, New Zealand Trade Minister David Parker, General Secretary Ministry of International Trade and Industry of Malaysia Y.bhg. Datuk J. Jayasiri, Canada's Minister of International Trade Francois-Philippe Champagne, Australian Minister for Trade and Investment Steven Ciobo, Chile's Foreing Minister Heraldo Munoz, Brunei's Foreign Minister Haji Erawan bin Pehin Yusof, Japan's Trans-Pacific Partnership minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Secretary of Economy of Mexico Idelfonso Guajardo, Peru's Trade Minister Eduardo Ferreyros and Vietnamese Trade Minister Tran Tuan Anh, poses for a pictures after the signing ceremony of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, CP TPP, in Santiago, Chile. The Pacific rim trade pact abandoned by President Donald Trump will take effect at the year's end after Australia became became the sixth nation to ratify it. The New Zealand government said Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018, that Australia had notified it that it had completed procedures needed for the trade arrangement, the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership. It will take effect Dec. 30. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix, File)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan will closely watch upcoming membership expansion discussions for the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTTP) to be held this Saturday to prepare for its push to join the trade bloc, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said on Jan. 17.

Phoebe Yeh (葉非比), director-general of MOFA’s Department of International Cooperation and Economic Affairs, told reporters that the meeting to be held in Tokyo has expanded membership on the agenda.

Although the 11-member CPTTP was established on Dec. 30, four of its members — Brunei, Malaysia, Chile, and Peru — have yet to complete the ratification process, Yeh said.

As such, it is likely Saturday’s meeting will focus on the rules of membership expansion rather than potential members, she said. The ministry will closely monitor the talks and respond accordingly, she added.

Meanwhile, Yeh stressed that Taiwan is in constant contact with Japan in the hope of winning its support for the nation’s possible inclusion as a new CPTPP member.

However, Yeh also acknowledged that a referendum vote in Taiwan in November to maintain a ban on certain Japanese food imports has created an obstacle for Taiwan’s inclusion to the CPTPP.

“We are continuing our talks with Tokyo to convince them that the food ban issue and Taiwan’s inclusion in the CPTPP should be discussed separately,” she said.

After the referendum, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono expressed disappointment at the result and said his government would consider filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the ban, which has been in place since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in Japan in March 2011.

Kono also said a decision to maintain the ban might hamper Taiwan’s efforts to join the CPTPP.

The CPTTP, which currently comprises 11 economies — Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Japan, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam — represents around 16 percent of global economic output and 500 million people.

By Joseph Yeh