Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the government should not allow fears that tensions with China could ignite in the way of accepting Taiwan’s offer to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.
Abbott also called on the Australian government to urge the United States to “reconsider its distancing from the TPP, which was originally its own idea.”
China and Taiwan have made dueling offers to enter the regional trade pact, which currently has 11 members, including Australia, Japan and New Zealand, but not the United States, which walked away from the deal under Donald Trump.
Abbott said Thursday that his willingness was “strongly in favor of Taiwan joining the TPP,” adding that he could think of many reasons to block its admission.
“The only argument I can think of is that it could upset China,” Abbott said in an Australian parliamentary inquiry into expanding the membership of the trade pact.
“But since China is not a member of the TPP, it is unlikely that it will become a member of the TPP, and it is already in a state of great anger against Australia and many other countries, I do not see that China is going to be. more annoying than it already is. “
The comments come after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said she would have to overcome “some political problems” to succeed in her bid to join the trade grouping, which is now officially known as the Comprehensive Agreement and Progressive of the TPP. .
Tsai said on Wednesday that the move is important for Taiwan’s economy and trade. It was also seen as a first step towards free trade agreements with the US and Europe.
Taiwan’s offer, submitted six days after China’s, was submitted under the same name it uses as a member of the World Trade Organization, “the separate customs territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu.”
But the Chinese government has warned against Taiwan’s joining the trade group, maintaining its position that the democratic self-governing island is “an inalienable part of China’s territory.”
“China … firmly rejects Taiwan’s adherence to any official agreement or organization,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing last week.
Abbott recently expressed a degree of regret on the free trade agreement his government signed with Beijing in 2015, saying a thinktank that China’s behavior under Xi Jinping was a “big wake-up call” for Australia.
On Thursday, Abbott said Australia should try to persuade the Biden administration that it was in the interest of the United States and the region that Washington consider joining the deal.
“I guess we just have to talk to them and point out what I think is pretty obvious: that the TPP is a group of nations that believe in freer and fairer trade and are absolutely determined to deal fairly and directly with each one of them. others to operate in a rule-based order, ”he said.
“I suspect this could be one of the few things where there is bipartisanship in Washington these days.”
Abbott noted that the TPP was originally conceived “as the economic arm” of Barack Obama’s “tilt” toward Asia-Pacific.
He said the trade “became a hot potato in the United States in 2016” due to a “widely held view that China had unfairly taken advantage” of world trade rules. He said it was “regrettable that the TPP was involved in all this.”
In 2015, when Abbott was prime minister, he criticized critics of the TPP and the China-Australia free trade agreement, accusing them of “xenophobic politics.”
Critics of free trade agreements had “forgotten their history,” Abbott said at the time, adding that such agreements were “too important to our companies and too important for our children to be sacrificed on the altar of xenophobic politics. short term”.
Since last year, Abbott has been listed on the Australian government’s foreign influence register as an advisor to the UK Board of Trade, where its unpaid role “is to advocate for free and fair trade, especially trade with the United Kingdom. Kingdom and its allies “.
Abbott used the parliamentary hearing to advocate for the UK’s adherence to the regional trade pact. He said there was no reason for this business grouping to be “geographically exclusive”.
He said it would be “wonderful to expand it to include the UK as quickly as possible.”
Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan has called the UK “first in line to accede” to the trade pact. He noted that Canberra will not consider China’s offer unless Beijing ends the freeze on ministerial talks and ceases trade actions against Australia.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism