Will China and Taiwan join the Comprehensive & Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Photo by Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash

The Canada West Foundation (CWF) asked me and some other Asian trade watchers the following question:

On trade, Canada’s best path forward in Asia is expansion of the TPP*, the more the better. With the Biden administration putting trade on the back burner to protect its domestic agenda and mid-term election prospects Canada’s best chances of expanding the agreement lie elsewhere. The UK has already begun to apply and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu is prepared to apply as well. China has also floated hints of being interested. What are pros and cons for Canada of Chinese Taipei and mainland China joining? What are the likelihood of having either enter?

My reply, included in Edition 064 of CWF’s China Brief, was as follows:

Expanding the CPTPP’s membership would boost the competitiveness of Canadian exports in more markets. Taiwan would make a terrific addition to the pact and has already signalled its interest in joining. That said, current members will weigh the economic benefits of admitting Taiwan with the undetermined cost of antagonizing Beijing, which has opposed Taiwan joining the World Health Organization and becoming a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said that the PRC would actively consider joining the CPTPP. Although Canada would clearly gain from improved access to the enormous Chinese market through the multilateral accord, it’s doubtful that Beijing would agree to meet certain provisions, like those pertaining to labor standards and support to state-owned enterprises. It’s also unlikely, at least in the short term, that current members would agree to weaken the agreement to accommodate the PRC. The Asian giant already enjoys preferential trade terms with most CPTPP members via the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which includes all ASEAN members and several high-income countries, such as Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

The next member of the CPTPP may well be a country that doesn’t border the Pacific Ocean — the United Kingdom, which is the third leading importer of Canadian goods. The UK has already applied to join the CPTPP, and negotiations on its admission will certainly involve less geopolitical drama than would accession talks with either Taiwan or the PRC. British participation in the CPTPP would increase the combined GDP of the accord’s members by more than 20%.


*The TPP = The Trans-Pacific Partnership. In my reply, I use the commonly used acronym for the accord’s full name: CPTPP (Comprehensive & Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership).

Author of Learning from Tomorrow: Using Strategic Foresight to Prepare for the Next Big Disruption

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