Japan open to Taiwan's CPTPP bid, urges it to solicit more support

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The CPTPP at its founding meeting.

The CPTPP at its founding meeting. (AP photo)

The Japanese government welcomes all countries that can accept the principles and standards of a Japan-led international economic bloc, Taiwan included, and has called on Taipei to solicit support from other economic bloc members, a Taiwanese diplomat said Thursday.

Taiwan's government has confirmed Tokyo's official stance in welcoming Taipei's bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), Taiwan-Japan Relations Association Deputy Secretary-General Hsieh Bor-huei (謝柏輝) told a news briefing.

It has always been Japan's stance that such a trade deal will be open to countries or regions that accept its principles and are willing to meet its standards, Hsieh said.

He said a previous comment made by Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, who said Taiwan's decision to maintain a ban on Japanese food products from nuclear disaster-affected areas might hamper Taipei's CPTPP bid was made in response to media inquires and may reflect his personal view only.

Japan also suggested that Taiwan should solicit support from more CPTPP members because it operates by consensus, Hsieh added.

On Nov. 24, 2018, Taiwanese voted by a 78-22 percent margin to maintain a ban on imports of agricultural products and food from areas in Japan affected by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster of March 2011.

Asked about Tokyo's stance about the result during a Dec. 7 press event, Kono expressed disappointment and said his government will consider filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the ban.

Kono also said a decision to maintain the ban might hamper Taiwan's efforts to gain membership of the CPTPP, which took effect Dec. 30.

Asked about Japan's repeated concern about the food ban, Hsieh said that Taiwan has been trying to amend ties with Japan following the referendum.

Taiwan is considering learning from the examples of the United States and the European Union to screen certain food products imported from Japan's nuclear disaster-affected areas to ensure they are safe to eat instead of banning them altogether, he noted.

"In this way, we can make sure the health of Taiwanese people is protected while at the same time staying in line with international standards in dealing with food safety issues," he added.

Hsieh's comments came against the backdrop that the CPTPP last month agreed to expand the trade agreement's membership during its first commission meeting in Tokyo.

Participating countries in the CPTPP highlighted in a joint ministerial statement the importance of expanding the agreement by taking in new members to form a stronger united front against the rise of protectionism.

According to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement, CPTPP member countries all have an understanding of Taiwan's interest in joining the trade bloc, adding that Taiwan's government will continue to communicate with them through various channels to seek their support.

The CPTPP came into being after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of its predecessor -- the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- just days after he took office in January 2017.

The other 11 TPP countries -- Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam -- renegotiated the free trade deal and called the new version the CPTPP. It was signed in March 2018.

Britain, Colombia, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and South Korea are also seen as willing to join the CPTPP.