Taipei will continue to encourage the EU to negotiate with Taiwan on accords to reduce trade barriers and facilitate bilateral relationships, though its plate is full in discussing free-trade agreements (FTA) with several countries, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said yesterday.
MOFA Director-General James Lee (李光章) told a regular press briefing that the ministry had listed signing an economic cooperation agreement with the EU as its -middle-to-long-term goal for next year.
The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China in June has created an atmosphere for Taiwan that is conducive to talks with the EU in exploring the possibility of striking similar deals and studying the benefits for both sides, Lee said.
Lee said MOFA and the -Ministry of Economic Affairs had established a task force to study the nature of the benefits that a -Taiwan-EU economic cooperation agreement would bring the nation.
“We also hope to conduct a joint study with the EU,” Lee said.
Over the years, the European Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (ECCT), the organizations -looking after European business -interests in Taiwan, has advocated the launch of negotiations over EU-Taiwan Trade Enhancement Measures (TEM).
“Other than the ECCT, which has been very active on this, [the government] is also in talks with the EU,” Lee said, adding, however, that Taiwan was not on the EU’s priority list of target countries with which to sign trade liberalization agreements.
The EU and South Korea signed an FTA in early October, the most ambitious trade agreement by the EU and its first with an Asian country.
In terms of FTA negotiations, the EU has been in talks with countries including Singapore, Vietnam, India and Brazil, Lee said.
“Although negotiating an FTA with Taiwan is not a priority for the EU at the moment, we will continue to make the EU aware of the importance of a Taiwan-EU trade agreement,” Lee said.
Taiwan and the EU could also adopt a building-block approach to promote free trade between the two sides, with issues of concern being discussed first, Lee said.
In related developments, Lee said a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement signed by Taiwan and Hungary had been ratified by the Hungarian parliament, making Hungary the first country in central/eastern Europe to sign such an accord with Taiwan.
Lee said this development could serve as a precedent for Taiwan as it negotiates similar deals with other central and eastern European countries.
The conclusion of the deals will greatly enhance cooperation on bilateral investment and trade, capital movement, technology exchanges and taxation, Lee said.