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Taiwan could join TPP this year: minister

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- As Taiwan strives to open up the local market, it may have a chance to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as early as this year, National Development Council (NDC) Minister Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) said yesterday.

According to Japanese media, White House officials recently expressed willingness to assist Taiwan in joining the TPP, and Taiwan may join the network in 2015 at the earliest. When speaking to reporters yesterday however, Kuan said that Taiwan may join the trade bloc ahead of the reported schedule.

The first round of TPP negotiations may be completed by the second quarter, upon which the second round of negotiations may begin, Kuan said. In order to join the TPP, all 12 TPP member-countries must approve Taiwan's admission.

However, the key lies in Taiwan opening up its market and connecting to the world, Kuan said. The Cabinet has initiated a process to review Taiwan's regulations as part of its efforts to update local commercial rules.

According to Kuan, Taiwan may learn from Vietnam, which successfully joined the TPP after years of continuous efforts to open up its market. In order to win other countries' support, Taiwan must demonstrate its willingness to open up as well, Kuan stressed.

Taiwan recently signed a service trade agreement with mainland China. The pact is currently being reviewed in the Legislature. Kuan said it is essential for the pact to clear the chamber; otherwise, it would send a negative message to the international community, as the world may consider negotiating with Taiwan fruitless should the pact be struck down.

According to Michael Froman, the U.S. trade representative, the TPP is open to countries that are willing to and capable of meeting “high standards.” He did not comment on the media report that the U.S. intends to help Taiwan join the TPP, but said that he was unaware of such an effort.

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