The China-backed RCEP deal excludes the US and will account for 30 percent of the world’s economy and population.
Taiwan will submit an application to join the revamped version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership once it has finished informal consultations with its existing 11 members, talks which are ongoing, the island’s foreign ministry said.
While a member of the World Trade Organization, many countries are wary of signing trade deals with Taiwan fearing objections from Beijing, which claims the democratic island as its own territory, and Taiwan has sought greater access to multilateral deals.
Tech-powerhouse Taiwan has been angling to join the 11-country Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), signed in 2018.
In a statement late on Sunday, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said that according to the processes of the CPTPP, new-member applicants need to complete informal talks with existing members first and “reach a consensus” before applying.
Those talks are ongoing, and member countries “already clearly understand our determination and steps to seeking membership, and the attitude is quite positive”, the ministry said in a statement.
“Once the informal consultation with all member states is completed, we will formally submit an application for membership in accordance with the procedures,” it added, without giving a timeframe.
The original 12-member agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), was thrown into limbo in early 2017 when US President Donald Trump withdrew from it.
It was renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and links Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
One potential problem for Taiwan could be a parallel application for membership from China.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said last month his country would “actively consider” signing up for the CPTPP.
Xi’s comments came less than a week after China and 14 other Asia-Pacific economies signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in Hanoi to form the world’s largest free-trade bloc.
Taiwan is not a member of that group.
The original TPP agreement had been a centrepiece of President Barack Obama’s so-called pivot to Asia. But it is not clear if President-elect Joe Biden would immediately rejoin its revamped version even though Beijing’s interest in joining the CPTPP should be “a real wake up call” for the US, Kurt Campbell, a former US official who has advised Biden, said earlier this month.