Fri, Apr 20, 2007 - Page 12 News List

EU official says any FTA will be `some time'

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Making his first speech since taking over as head of the European Economic and Trade Office in Taiwan last month, Guy Ledoux yesterday outlined his plans to bolster trade and investment between the EU and Taiwan, with strengthened intellectual property rights (IPR) protection as the primary theme.

Addressing members of the European Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (ECCT) during a luncheon yesterday, Ledoux said Taiwan is heading in the right direction with regards to improved IPR protection.

"However, there are also less encouraging moves, for example in the form of compulsory licencing," Ledoux said.

The EU recently launched an investigation into a complaint filed by Royal Philips Electronics NV, which said that Taiwan had violated the WTO's Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights in granting compulsory licences for five Philips' patents in CD-R technology to Gigastorage Corp (國碩科技), a local optical storage media maker.

The EU will send a delegation to Taiwan next month to investigate the case, said Kenneth Yeh (葉元之), a public relations manager at Philips Taiwan.

If the complaint is upheld, the EU would request that the government recall the licences, or otherwise take the case to the WTO panel for a ruling, Ledoux said.

As the EU is launching a new program of bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) with key partners -- South Korea, India and ASEAN -- Ledoux told ECCT members yesterday it would be some time before the EU was able to evaluate the feasibility of a FTA with Taiwan.

The prerequisites would be whether European companies see any need for or benefits from such a deal and whether the Taiwanese government is interested in signing a pact, Ledoux said.

Bilateral trade between Taiwan and the EU rose 6.34 percent to US$42.66 billion last year, customs figures showed. The amount represents nearly 10 percent of Taiwan's total trade last year and makes the EU Taiwan's fourth-largest trade partner after China, Japan and the US.

"We are very interested in striking a FTA with the EU," Huang Chih-peng (黃志鵬), director-general of the Bureau of Foreign Trade, told the Taipei Times yesterday by telephone.

The government has expressed such an intention several times to EU trade officials, Huang said.

Another priority on Ledoux's agenda is to urge Taiwan to sign the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), which would allow European firms to bid for government tenders in Taiwan, as well as giving Taiwanese companies access to European government projects.

Taipei had said it has had difficulty joining the GPA because of opposition from China over the nation's government departments' titles.

"The issue can be settled by negotiations," Ledoux said.

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