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China out to scuttle Taiwan’s move to join trans-Pacific trade pact

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Taiwan has applied to join a major trans-Pacific trade pact, officials confirmed on Thursday, but fears that China is out to scuttle its move as Beijing has said it also wants to become a member of the agreement

Taiwan has applied to join a major trans-Pacific trade pact, officials confirmed on Thursday, but fears that China is out to scuttle its move as Beijing has said it also wants to become a member of the agreement.

Taiwan had been lobbying to join the pact for years but on Thursday made a formal application. The island's announcement came less than a week after China said it had also formally applied to join, according to the Bangkok Post.

There is a "risk" to Taiwan's application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) if China joins first, Taiwan's government said on Thursday.

Taiwan is excluded from many international bodies because of China's insistence that it is part of "one-China" rather than a separate country.

Taiwan's chief trade negotiator John Deng told journalists that China always tries to obstruct Taiwan's participation internationally.

But China's growing threats towards Taiwan have generated international sympathy for the island among western powers. Taiwan’s regional allies like Japan have also welcomed its desire to join.

China, on the other hand, has been at loggerheads with western powers who have to approve the application for membership. 

Signed by 11 Asia-Pacific countries in 2018, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is the region's biggest free-trade pact and accounts for around 13.5% of the global economy.

"Most of [the CPTPP's] member countries are Taiwan's key trade partners, accounting for over 24% of Taiwan's international trade," cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng told reporters.

"Taiwan can't be left out in the world and has to integrate into the regional economy."

Negotiations for the sweeping trade deal were initially led by the United States as a way to increase its influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

It was also designed to keep China, which has its own regional trade deal, locked out.

But former president Donald Trump, who disdained multilateral agreements, pulled out of the deal in 2017.

The CPTPP is the successor to those negotiations and includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam.