China on Thursday announced it had formally applied to become a member of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Now known as the TPP-11, the multilateral regional free trade pact is an 11-nation trade agreement among Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Earlier, as reported by TFI, China had reached out to Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and possibly other nations for technical talks on details of the CPTPP. In fact, China had even resorted to wooing Australia with the hopes of winning a seat at the table.
According to Nikkei Asia, however, China has formally asked to join the TPP-11 trade pact with some ulterior motives in mind. The report by Nikkei suggests that China is trying to drive a wedge between Japan and the United States. Jia Qingguo, a Standing Committee member at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference told Nikkei Asia in November last year itself that a Chinese application would pose a challenge for Japan because “refusing the request would mean a confrontation with China, but Japan cannot accept it easily either because the U.S. would never agree to that.”
Japan Blunts China’s Vicious Plans
China’s plans of driving a wedge between Japan and the US have been made to fall flat on their face by Tokyo. It seems China thinks of itself as an entitled country which will be welcomed in all multilateral forums and groupings readily. However, that is not the case with the TPP-11. In fact, Japan has made it abundantly clear that it is not keen to welcome China into the trade bloc, asserting that Beijing might not meet all the required standards needed to join the trade deal.
The Japanese government said Friday it will carefully analyze whether China is ready to meet the requirements for joining the trans-Pacific free trade deal. Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said, “We must thoroughly assess whether China is ready to fulfil the high-standard rules of the TPP-11.” He added, “We will consult with other members while following the procedures for approving new members.”
Katsunoby was not alone in making Japan’s aversion to China’s inclusion in the bloc known. Finance Minister Taro Aso told reporters, “I simply wonder if China is really in a state in which it can join.” Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi separately said Japan needs to respond “from a strategic standpoint,” while noting that procedures for approving Britain’s participation following London’s application earlier this year will take precedence.
China’s plans of creating differences between Japan and the United States were contingent upon Tokyo pushing for China’s inclusion into the TPP. However, none of that is happening, and Xi Jinping has ended up looking like a clown in the aftermath of his failed geopolitical experiment.
Japan Pushing for Taiwan’s Inclusion Instead
Japan is the most influential member of the TPP-11, and currently, it is pushing for Taiwan’s inclusion into the trade pact. In light of the same, for China to even think that Tokyo will remotely support its bid is simply infantile. Lawmakers from Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, that is the LDP, recently held first-of-their-kind security talks with Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers. Otsuka, head of the LDP’s defence committee said, “Taiwan’s early participation in TPP is extremely important.” Otsuka added, “We told them that we would like to support it.”
On its part, Taiwan made it clear the island nation would show a strong will to participate in the TPP in line with President Tsai Ing-wen’s intent to mainstream Taiwan at global forums. Tokyo itself wants to bring Taiwan into the trade bloc because the island nation occupies a central place in Japan’s security strategy. If Taiwan finds legitimacy as a nation independent from China, it will help Japan in pushing back against Chinese expansionism in East Asia. Taiwan’s thriving semiconductor industry occupies a pivotal position in the global electronics industry and therefore Japan wants to bring the island nation into a trade bloc that excludes China.
China has thus been left embarrassed once again. Japan has sent a clear message – it is not interested in ensuring Beijing’s entry into the TPP-11. In fact, Japan is also calling on the US to join the trade bloc once again. In July, former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe called on the US and Taiwan to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership to further economic cooperation between the trio. Nothing is going as per plans for China. It seriously needs to give up on behaving like a country which others take seriously.