Another major market has made clear its interest in joining the giant trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which already includes 12 countries and 40 percent of the world’s production.
Earlier this month, Taiwan leaders said they would apply for membership to the deal.
The United States and 11 other countries finalized the free trade agreement in early October.
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On Nov. 7, President Ma Ying-jeo of Taiwan met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Singapore to discuss ongoing diplomatic relations.
During the meeting, President Ma announced that his government plans on applying for membership to the giant trade deal that already encompasses 40 percent of the world’s production.
He also signaled Taiwan’s interest in joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a separate 10-member proposed free trade agreement between Southeast Asian nations.
“We cannot afford not to participate in [the trade deals],” Ma said.
Mainland China has not hinted at a desire to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, also known as TPP.
Taiwan is a major trading nation and its exports make up roughly 75 percent of its gross domestic product, according to a report from The Brookings Institute. Five of Taiwan’s top 10 export partners are also TPP parties, meaning there’s a fair amount of economic incentive for Taiwan to join the agreement.
Countries besides the United States currently included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership include Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore.
Colombia, the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia have also expressed interest in becoming TPP members.
Finalized on Oct. 5 in Atlanta, the international trade representatives that shaped the TPP strategically left the deal open, allowing for the possibility of countries such as Taiwan to join the deal in years to come.
Overall, many experts believe the U.S. agriculture industry has the most to gain from the trade deal, which will eliminate or reduce about 18,000 taxes on U.S. exports.
U.S. Department of Agriculture and World Trade Organization data shows that Taiwan has shipped in more than $8.8 billion worth of beef, pork, poultry, corn and other key U.S. agricultural products since 2010.
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Soybean and soybean products have been Taiwan’s biggest U.S. agricultural import.
Although international support for the trade deal appears to be growing, the agreement remains a politically charged issue for many Americans who argue the TPP would slash U.S. jobs and only benefit big businesses.
“That deal was built from years of secrete negotiations between corporations and trade representatives, with little to no input from the working families who will have to bear the loss of jobs here at home,” said Rep. Bonnie Watson (D-N.J.) in a speech to Congress.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership must be approved by each member country’s Congress or parliament, including the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
President Barack Obama notified Congress on Nov. 5 that he will sign the TPP, which kick started a window of 90 days for U.S. legislators to study the deal and consider public opinion.