China hampers trade talks: EU official

POSITIVE IMPACT::The EU parliamentarian said the EU signing a trade agreement with Taiwan might be a good example for a future free-trade agreement with China

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Nov 02, 2012 - Page 3

China has been the main obstacle preventing the EU from opening negotiations with Taiwan over a deal on trade facilitation, despite “overwhelming backing” in the European parliament for the bid, a visiting member of the European Parliament said yesterday.

The European Parliament as a whole is very supportive of the EU signing a free-trade agreement or an economic cooperation agreement with Taiwan and wants to see negotiations start as soon as possible, said Martin Callanan, chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the parliament.

However, many political organizations in the EU and some EU member states have been “more reluctant” to make the move, Callanan said.

Callanan said that the main obstacle lies in the “difficult political environment,” in which China “takes great offense” to any agreement between the EU with Taiwan, as well as admission of Taiwan to any international organizations and committees.

“In my view, we should not be so sensitive,” said Callanan, whose group in the parliament has been at the forefront of pushing for a free-trade agreement to be signed with Taiwan.

It is anticipated that China will “issue various threats” against the EU should the EU move ahead toward negotiating a trade pact with Taiwan, he said.

However, at the end of the day, the relationships between the EU and China will settle down and China will realize that it is in its interests to maintain a good trading relationship with the EU because “China benefits massively from selling lots of goods into the EU markets,” he said.

“We have an expression in English — we say you are not going to cut off your nose to spite your face,” Callanan said.

Callanan said that the EU signing a trade pact with Taiwan, “a stable democracy of respectful human rights,” may be a good model for a future free-trade agreement with China.

The European Parliament has adopted two resolutions urging the European Commission to commence negotiations with Taiwan, while more pressure needed to be placed on the political groups to persuade them that it was “a good goal to go for,” Callanan said.

“The EU has recently concluded a free-trade agreement with South Korea. If we don’t get on and include an agreement with Taiwan, that would put you at a competitive disadvantage. We don’t want to see that,” Callanan said.

Callanan led a group of delegation on a one-week visit to Taiwan that started on Sunday.

He sat down with reporters to answer questions on the subject yesterday.