EU politician backs closer links with Taiwan during trip

Staff writer, with CNA

Sat, Nov 03, 2012 - Page 3

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who has called for the EU to begin negotiations on economic cooperation with Taiwan as soon as possible, received support for his proposal from a visiting member of the European Parliament yesterday.

Taiwan has already engaged in economic and trade talks with its three largest trading partners — China, Japan and the US — but has yet to do so with the EU, Ma said in a meeting at the Presidential Office with Hans van Baalen, vice chairman of the European Parliament-Taiwan Friendship Group.

Ma suggested Taiwan and the EU begin their own studies on the feasibility of forming closer trade ties before choosing an appropriate occasion to study the issue together. Once such preparations are completed, the two sides can begin talks on an economic cooperation agreement at any time, he said.

The proposal was welcomed by Van Baalen, a Dutch politician who is also the president of Liberal International, a world federation of more than 100 bilateral and progressive democratic political parties. Van Baalen said he recently suggested to Japan that it sign a free-trade agreement (FTA) with the EU, following an FTA reached between the EU and South Korea, and he agreed that the EU should now look toward forging economic cooperation relations with Taiwan. Van Baalen also urged Taiwan to develop closer ties with countries in Europe, the Americas and Asia while maintaining warm relations with China.

Taiwan’s economy was also discussed during the 35-minute meeting. Asked by Van Baalen about his economic policies, Ma said that Taiwan has faced severe economic challenges over the past year. Taiwan’s economic growth for this year was recently forecast at 1.05 percent, which would be the lowest since 2009, and exports are likely to post negative growth for the year as a whole, Ma said.

Faced with these challenges, the government has proposed a number of stimulus measures, including increasing trade with emerging markets and Islamic countries, he said.

His administration is also trying to change the nature of Taiwan’s economic cooperation with China to enable goods made in Taiwan to be more effectively sold in China, Ma said.

Ma also pointed to efforts to sign economic cooperation accords with Singapore and New Zealand that will accelerate Taiwan’s economic liberalization, which he believes will integrate the country into the global trade system more quickly.

“Bad economic conditions can be an opportunity that allows a government to review old policies and propose new ones, turning a crisis into a turning point,” Ma said.