Taipei, Jan. 17 (CNA) Taiwan will closely watch upcoming membership expansion discussions for the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) to be held this Saturday to prepare for its push to join the trade bloc, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said Thursday.
Phoebe Yeh (葉非比), director-general of MOFA's Department of International Cooperation and Economic Affairs, told reporters that the meeting to be held in Tokyo has expanded membership on the agenda.
Although the 11-member CPTPP was established on Dec. 30, four of its members -- Brunei, Malaysia, Chile and Peru -- have yet to complete the ratification process, Yeh said.
As such, it is likely Saturday's meeting will focus on the rules of membership expansion rather than potential members, she said.
The ministry will closely monitor the talks and respond accordingly, she added.
Meanwhile, Yeh stressed that Taiwan is in constant contact with Japan in the hope of winning its support for the nation's possible inclusion as a new CPTPP member.
However, Yeh also acknowledged that a referendum vote in Taiwan in November to maintain a ban on certain Japanese food imports has created an obstacle for Taiwan's inclusion to the CPTPP.
"We are continuing our talks with Tokyo to convince them that the food ban issue and Taiwan's inclusion in the CPTPP should be discussed separately," she said.
After the referendum, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono expressed disappointment at the result and said his government would consider filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the ban, which has been in place since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in Japan in March 2011.
Kono also said a decision to maintain the ban might hamper Taiwan's efforts to join the CPTPP.
The CPTPP, which currently comprises 11 economies -- Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Japan, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam -- represents around 16 percent of global economic output and 500 million people.