The highest-ranking EU official to visit Taiwan for two years praised the nation on its progress in conforming to the WTO's regulations yesterday.
"We are satisfied with Taiwan's WTO implementation," said European Commission Deputy Director-General for Trade Pierre Defraigne. "Most WTO rules were already applied before membership."
Taiwan joined the WTO in January of last year.
Visiting Taiwan to open the European Economic and Trade Office, Defraigne was addressing a luncheon of European business leaders organized by the European Chamber of Commerce in Taipei.
Taiwan is one of the greatest successes of a developing nation leaping to the level of the developed world through trade, Defraigne said.
"Taiwan is a symbol of how trade and foreign investment contribute to development," he said.
Taiwan has not had an easy accession to WTO and has had to adapt many areas of trade, especially related to its farming sector, Defraigne said. And intellectual property rights remain a sticking point between the two trading partners.
"Intellectual property is an area we have discussed in some detail. Enforcement is the key word here," he said.
Financial reforms, public procurement, construction deregulation and many other issues have also been on the agenda in discussions between the EU and Taiwan.
"The Taiwanese have been well-prepared," Defraigne said. "We have discussed constructively and have learned very much about each other."
Now that Taiwan is a full member of the WTO, it can share its experiences with other countries as part of the WTO's 2001 Doha declaration to help pull more developing nations out of poverty.
"We encourage all new WTO members to play a full role in the organization," Defraigne said.
Taiwan's trade with the EU is about to become more lucrative. The expansion of the EU to 25 countries next year from the current 15 offers many new opportunities to Taiwan companies, and as the EU's fourth-largest trading partner in Asia, Taiwan is poised to take full advantage of the increase in the size of the EU's market through "the safe and secure system that WTO membership brings to trade with countries far away," according to Defraigne.
Defraigne's conciliatory tone surprised at least one guest at yesterday's luncheon.
"He spoke with a somewhat more optimistic tone than you'd find in the ECCT and AmCham White Papers," said American Chamber of Commerce executive director Richard Vuylsteke. "One hopes that when he comes back in a year for his next visit that his optimism has been rewarded."
The American and European chambers prepare an annual report, or White Paper, on the major concerns of foreign businesses operating in Taiwan. The most recent reports have highlighted more than a dozen areas where they are not satisfied with Taiwan's implementation of WTO rules.
"If you have a broader view and look at Taiwan as a member of the WTO, Taiwan has actually done quite well," said Guy Wittich, CEO of the European Chamber of Commerce.
"They have adhered to the reduction in tariffs, they have shown commitment to many areas and yet there are certain areas where we as a chamber see a need for improvement -- IPR law enforcement is not satisfactory and the import ban on products from China is detrimental to many of our members. We also want Taiwan to come to an agreement on the Government Procurement Agreement [GPA]," he said.