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Tue, Jan 11, 2000 - Page 2 News List

France could be key to better ties with EU countries

STAFF WRITER

Taiwan should push to elevate the level of government exchanges with France as a means to break through the stalemate in relations with other European countries, Kuo Wei-fan (郭為藩), Taiwan's chief representative in Paris, said at an interpellation session in the legislature yesterday.

However, political analysts said despite friendly relations between the two countries, any changes in the short term would be difficult due to the French adherence to realpolitik in international relations.

According to Kuo, France is Taiwan's fourth largest trading partner in Europe.

Taiwan is running a US$3.95 billion trade deficit with France due to the island's purchase of French-made arms and military equipment, including 60 Mirage-2000 jet fighters and six Lafayette-class patrol vessels, he said.

"Taiwan-France relations have improved in the past two years, and dialogue between government officials on both sides have become more institutionalized," Kuo said.

He highlighted restrictions on high-level Taiwan government officials traveling to European countries and suggested that the country should aim to enhance ties with France in order to push for a breakthrough in relations with other EU nations.

"France has a leadership role in the EU and among countries who are signatories of the Shengen Agreement. It should be our lobbying target to improve such restrictions," Kuo said.

Political analyst Chang Tai-lin (張台麟) of National Chengchi University's Institute for International Relations said that a short-term improvement in relations is unlikely given the recent visit by Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) last October.

"French willingness to sell arms to Taiwan does not necessary mean they want to elevate relations with us," Chang said.

"The French are very careful in conducting diplomacy. They are very friendly with Taiwan personally, but prefer to keep it very low-key," he said.

Taiwan-France relations have made headlines recently in a corruption scandal involving former French finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who received money from a student health fund, allegedly for legal work he has never undertaken.

The scandal also raised questions over a France-Taiwan association involved in arms sales to the island, to which his name has linked.

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