Taiwan wants in on regional trade agreement

By Melissa Coade

Tuesday October 12, 2021

Elliott Charng is the Taipei economic and cultural office in Australia representative.
Elliott Charng is the Taipei economic and cultural office in Australia representative. (Twitter)

A top diplomat for Taiwan has before a parliamentary inquiry in Canberra the case for Taiwan joining Australia’s Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

The purpose of the inquiry is to hear from interested sovereign nations how their accession to the trade agreement serves Australia’s national interests, and examine the CPTPP’s merit as a vehicle for ‘expanding and improving’ market access.

On Tuesday Elliott Charng, the Taipei economic and cultural office in Australia representative, said that his country was ready to participate in the free trade principles of the CPTPP and Taiwan’s membership of the trade agreement would be mutually beneficial to both Taiwan and Australia. 

For example, he said that Australia was Taiwan’s third-largest importer of wheat, barley, beef and meat products, meaning the regional trade opportunities would help clear market entry barriers for domestic products. 

“As a member of the WTO and APEC, my government has been substantially participating and dutifully fulfilling its obligations in the multilateral trading system,” representative Charng said.

“My government has also been actively supporting numerous pro-trade initiatives in the Asia Pacific region. Full participation in either lateral and regional economic integration has been the flagship of the TPKM’s trade policy.”

In 2018 a trade bloc of 11 countries signed the CPTPP agreement, including Australia, boasting an export market of 500 million consumers worth nearly $14 trillion. 

Sub-committee chair Ted O’Brien said that only three prospective additional members had lodged formal applications to join the regional trade agreement for the hearing: Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the People’s Republic of China.

“The committee has received an overwhelming number of submissions in support of Taiwan acceding into the CPTPP,” O’Brien said.

“This hearing provides an opportunity for Taiwan’s top diplomat to prosecute Taiwan’s own case for joining this vitally important trade agreement.”

When asked by the Joint Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee chair to comment on whether Taiwan thought Beijing might seek to ‘frustrate or block’ the participation of Taiwan in the agreement, Charng was direct. Opposition from the People’s Republic of China was not unexpected, he said, echoing the sentiment of remarks made by former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott last week

“We all know and understand that China uses every way to just avoid Taiwan’s participation in any international organisations.

“Since Taiwan’s announcement to join the CPTPP, we have already received a lot of support from international friends, only one voice just on the other side is inactive. But the others all support Taiwan to be a part of this big family,” Charng said. 

Charng said that Taiwan’s membership of the trade agreement would also be mutually beneficial for other member states, noting that Australia was Taiwan’s third-largest importer of wheat, barley, beef and meat products (Taiwan does not have a direct free trade agreement with Australia but it does with other countries like Singapore and New Zealand). 

Taiwan’s CPTPP membership would therefore mean helping Australia clear market entry barriers for its own exports, he said. 

“Last year, Taiwan imported about USD$359 million of agricultural products from CPTPP countries amounting for about 26.4% of total inputs,” Charng said.

The other member nations to the CPTPP include Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia and Peru.


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