The European Economic and Trade Office opened on Taipei's Minsheng East Road yesterday afternoon, more than three years after the European Parliament urged the European Commission to set up a trade office here.
The office will avoid politics and concentrate instead on trade, science, technology and education, European Commission Deputy Director-General for Trade Pierre Defraigne said at yesterday's opening.
"The office does not have political status and will not engage in political issues," Defraigne said. The EU does not recognize Taiwan diplomatically.
Last year, Taiwan slipped to becomethe EU's fourth-largest trading nation in Asia from its previous position as third-largest, due to the "global economic environment," Defraigne said, urging European businesses to redouble their efforts to improve trade between the two sides.
Intellectual property rights (IPR), access to government infrastructure projects, and European involvement in the local services sector top the list of concerns for the European Commission.
"There needs to be proper implementation of intellectual property laws," Defraigne said, adding that Taiwan has made "tremendous improvements" in its IPR laws.
He urged Taiwan to sign the Government Procurement Agreement soon to allow foreign companies to bid freely for all government projects, and said that European companies could offer their expertise to help with Tai-wan's financial and environmental problems.
The new office will be headed by seasoned EU trade official Brian McDonald, who has around 30 years of experience in the diplomatic service.
Bilateral trade between the EU and Taiwan has grown sevenfold from US$4.2 billion in 1982 to US$28.9 billion last year, Minster of Economic Affairs Lin Yi-fu (林義夫) said at the opening yesterday.
European companies have invested US$7.2 billion in Taiwan.
"The number of visits is increasing each year and the new trade office will be key for more European companies to set up in Taiwan," Lin said.