EU lawmakers back proposed economic pact with Taiwan

Staff writer, with CNA, BRUSSELS

Wed, Sep 25, 2013 - Page 3

A pro-Taiwan group in the European Parliament signed a joint statement with a Taiwanese business group on Monday in Belgium in support of a proposed economic cooperation agreement (ECA) between Taiwan and the EU.

The statement was signed in Brussels by Charles Tannock, chairman of the European Parliament-Taiwan Friendship Group, and Kenneth Lo (駱錦明), chairman of Taiwan’s Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce.

The two groups agreed that an EU-Taiwan ECA would be “in the best interests of both sides,” and urged the European Commission and the European Council to take measures to facilitate talks on such an agreement, the statement said.

Bilateral trade between the EU and Taiwan totaled 38.3 billion euros (US$52 billion) last year, making the EU Taiwan’s fourth-largest trade partner and Taiwan the EU’s seventh-largest trade partner in Asia, it said.

The EU is also Taiwan’s largest foreign direct investor, holding more than 25 percent of all foreign direct investment stocks in Taiwan, it said.

Taiwan has signed or started talks on trade and investment agreements with countries such as China, Japan, the US, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand, the two groups said.

Since 2008, Taiwan and China have signed 19 agreements, including an Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), the statement said.

“As such, closer EU-Taiwan economic ties will provide EU enterprises with ample opportunity to enter mainland China’s market using Taiwan as a springboard,” the groups said.

For the past few years, Taiwan has been calling for an ECA with the EU and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) reiterated this hope after Taiwan signed an ECA with New Zealand in July.

Lo told reporters that his group and BusinessEurope, which comprises 41 European national business organizations, have agreed to study the feasibility of an ECA.

He is leading a business delegation on a one-week visit to Belgium, Germany and France in an effort to expand Taiwan’s trade ties with those countries.

Meanwhile, former vice president Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), the honorary head of the delegation, said that “the worst has passed” for Europe and it will be beneficial for Taiwan to focus its attention on Europe now.

Sampo Corp chairman Chen Sheng-tien (陳盛沺) also said that he believes the European economy is gradually recovering and that the EU market should not be overlooked.