Taiwan applied to join a key Asia-Pacific pact just days after China submitted its application.
The states have a complicated relationship. Taiwan considers itself as an independent nation, but China regards it as a breakaway province.
On Thursday, Taiwan’s chief trade negotiator John Deng told reporters that if China joined the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) first, “Taiwan’s case to become a member will be at risk, this is fairly obvious”.
The unanimous approval of all 11 members is needed for new countries to join the pact.
On Thursday, Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters that he welcomed Taiwan’s application to join the pact, Kyodo News reported.
The CPTPP was initially created by the US to counter China’s influence – but the US later pulled out under then US President Donald Trump.
It is one of the largest of its kind, linking a wide swathe of countries across the region.
Taiwan has also applied to join the CPTPP under the name it uses in the World Trade Organization (WTO) – the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen.
Both China and Taiwan’s applications come after the US, UK and Australia recently announced a controversial security deal, in an effort seen to counter Chinese influence in Asia-Pacific.
The original Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was promoted by then-President Barack Obama as an economic bloc to challenge China’s increasingly powerful position in the Asia Pacific.
After Mr Trump pulled the US out of the deal, Japan led negotiations to create what became the CPTPP.
The CPTPP was signed in 2018 by 11 countries, including Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan and New Zealand.