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Cross-party harmony behind Irish growth: Ma

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday met with a delegation of Irish parliamentarians and congratulated them on their nation's economic recovery, attributing Ireland's economic growth to cross-party cooperation.

John McGuinness, chairman of the Ireland Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Society, and other Irish lawmakers are visiting Taiwan to learn more about the island's public health system, democratic development and investment environment, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is the third time that McGuinness has led a delegation to Taiwan.

The president congratulated Ireland for exiting a three-year bailout in mid-December last year.

The Irish economy is improving and it will see further improvements this year, Ma said, adding that Taiwan is in a similar situation and hopefully 2014 will prove to be a breakthrough year for the economy of Taiwan.

Ma said that he had visited Ireland as Taipei mayor in 2006 and that the visit left a lasting impression.

The president explained that while he was in Ireland, he was repeatedly told that the reason behind Ireland's rise as the fastest growing European nation was due to different political parties setting aside their differences and working together to improve the economy.

The president also recounted the various milestones achieved in Taiwan-Ireland relations over the past few years, including visa-waiver privileges, a reciprocal agreement over driver's licenses, and a working holiday program.

This string of bilateral agreements has pushed relations between the two countries to new heights, Ma said.

The president expressed the administration's wish to sign an agreement to avoid double taxation with Ireland, which will help Taiwanese businesses invest in the European country.

Ma Calls for Taiwan-EU Economic Cooperation Pact

The European Union is one of Taiwan's major trading partners and source of foreign investment, the president said, reiterating Taiwan's wish to sign an economic cooperation agreement (ECA) with the EU.

Ma said that the European Parliament passed a resolution on Taiwan-EU economic ties last year and urged the European Commission to start negotiations with Taiwan as soon as possible to strengthen bilateral ties.

The president pointed out that Taiwan had signed ECAs with New Zealand and Singapore last year, and that the administration is actively reaching out to the members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in hopes of joining the TPP.

Ma said that the U.S. is currently in the process of signing a trade agreement with the EU, which marks an important development in global economic integration.

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