Taiwanese official: Some EU countries overlook the potential of deeper bilateral ties

WTCC President Lee Yao-hsiung presented a gift to Arnaldo Abruzzini, the Secretary-General of Eurochambres. [Eurochambres]

Opportunities for further cooperation between Taiwan and the EU have sometimes been overlooked by some EU member states. It is time to boost our bilateral economic ties, starting with signing a Taiwan-EU bilateral investment agreement, says Lee Yao-Hsiung.

Lee Yao-Hsiung is chairman of the World Taiwanese Chambers of Commerce (WTCC).

ROC President-elect Tsai Ing-wen is pushing for economic reforms. What reforms will make Taiwan more competitive?

It is a top priority to boost Taiwan’s industrial competitiveness in the world. I think it depends on what measures and incentives that the economic and finance ministries may offer to recruit quality personnel and to solicit sufficient funding. The WTCC anticipate good results from this and will fully support the government.

Taiwan is setting up a dedicated office to handle the country’s international trade negotiations. What would be the impact on trade relations with the EU?

A dedicated trade office under the cabinet will enhance inter-agency coordination and efficiency while Taiwan is undergoing international trade negotiations.  I believe it will benefit Taiwan’s negotiations to join the TPP and RCEP and will further facilitate the negotiation of bilateral investment agreements with our most important trade partners, such as European Union.

What are the prospects for Taiwan to be included in TPP?

There may be opportunities for Taiwan to join the TPP, but success depends on our overall strategy and how broad the mandate that our negotiators may have for closing a deal with trade partners. All in all, the WTCC fully supports Taiwan’s efforts in this regard.

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Taiwan is the EU’s 7th largest trading partner in Asia and the EU is both Taiwan’s 5th largest market and its largest source of foreign investment.  What would be a positive evolution to consolidate and grow the relationship?

Taiwan-EU economic and trade relations have always been close. However, due to the tight-knit supply chain and investment activities among Taiwan, East Asia and the United States, opportunities for further cooperation between Taiwan and EU have sometimes been overlooked by some EU member states.

Therefore, Taiwan and EU should work together to enhance the awareness and visibility of how close our bilateral economic ties are, so as to facilitate more exchanges between both people and enterprises in the fields of trade, science, technology and education.

One of the purposes of signing a Taiwan-EU bilateral investment agreement, or even a free trade agreement in the future, is to jointly exploit the potential to expand profits for manufacturers, traders and investors in a closer Taiwan-EU economic partnership.

What sectors are most promising to boost trade between EU and Taiwan in the future?

Taiwan has a quite competitive ICT industry, while the EU pioneers research and design. Therefore, the ICT industry is one of the domains in which Taiwan and the EU can complement each other and work together to our mutual benefit.

On this note, we are glad to see that with the support of the Commission, Silicone Europe is visiting Taiwan in June. In addition, Taiwan and the EU can also strengthen their cooperation in the green energy and technology, health and medical equipment industries.

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Last month, the European Commission imposed duties to prevent imports of dumped and subsidised Chinese solar panel components via Taiwan and Malaysia. How can the EU be reassured that Taiwan will not be a route for Chinese dumping?

The government has to communicate candidly with our manufacturers about this matter, and they must take measures for effective management and control. Transparency is after all crucial for a reliable economic partner.

Beijing has warned against any moves towards independence since January’s landslide win by Tsai, and said it would defend its sovereignty. Does this new political context affect business with international trade partners?

Beijing pays full attention to the voices advocating independence in Taiwan, so we must find a mutually beneficial and cooperative approach to smooth over any misunderstandings between the two sides, (in order) to contribute to the peace and development.

Mistrust between the two sides would only cause confrontation, and lead to harmful results. The WTCC has high expectation and confidence in the competence of the president-elect to maintain stability across the Taiwan Strait.

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