Delivered in Plenary - 26th September 2011
As chairman of the EP-Taiwan Friendship Group in this Parliament, I strongly believe that the EU should pursue a free-trade type agreement with Taiwan, which will probably be called something like ‘trade enhancement measures’. Such an agreement is in the long-term interests of both sides, and the cake grows bigger for both as synergies and opportunities for joint ventures and free flow of investments can carry on in both directions. I recently had the pleasure of trying some of their excellent single malt whisky, so Scotland beware! Competition is on its way!
Taiwan is a democracy with a vibrant free market and a largely export-driven economy. Therefore I urge the Commission not to place Taiwan in some sort of queue for negotiating an agreement. Already we know how successful the visa-free agreement has been – it should have been in place for some months now. If other countries already discussing a free-trade deal with the EU are falling behind, Taiwan should not be penalised as a result. As and when Taiwan is ready to negotiate, the EU should respond positively and judge this country solely on its economic merits, without taking into consideration what is going on in other ASEAN countries or any possible political objections from China.
The economic imperative is strong, but so too is the political imperative. Although Taiwan has made great progress in recent years towards stronger economic ties with the mainland by negotiating a successful, albeit controversial, Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with the PRC, Taiwan does not want to become over-dependent on one economic partner. The EU can therefore help to ensure Taiwan’s long-term economic prosperity by helping Taiwan to diversify its global economic perspectives.
I would specifically like to ask the Commissioner: What timetable does the Commission foresee for negotiations with Taiwan? Given the unusual status of Taiwan in terms of EU legal recognition, under what legal basis and what country name will the negotiations take place? And which sectors in Taiwan and the European Union will, in the opinion of the Commission, benefit most from a possible FTA?