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President welcomes economic agreement with EU

President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday that the government is looking forward to signing an economic cooperation agreement with the European Union, pointing out to the fact that the European Parliament had already expressed interest in signing such a deal with Taiwan in 2011.

Ma met with Wolfgang Kreissl-Dorfler, member of the Foreign Affairs Committee under the European Parliament, at the Presidential Office yesterday. Ma said that the most significant development with regard to Taiwan-EU relations during the past few years has been the increase of visa-free entry agreements (between Taiwan and EU nations). The president said that there were only 54 countries worldwide that allowed Republic of China (R.O.C.) nationals to enter without visas when he first stepped into office, but that the number has now increased to 128.

When the European Parliament announced last year that it would like to explore the possibility of signing an economic cooperation agreement with Taiwan last year, Ma said, the R.O.C. has been very eager to initiate talks with the EU on the subject.

Ma maintained that the R.O.C. has very close ties with the EU in a number of fields, such as technology, finance, environmental protection, cultural exchange, crime prevention, sustainable development, etc.

The president also said that the R.O.C. has been very active in participating in the economic integration of the Asia Pacific region. In addition to signing the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with mainland China, the R.O.C. has also signed an investment agreement with Japan. Ma stated that the government is also looking forward to resuming talks on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the U.S., adding that the government is aiming to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership within the next eight years so as to avoid Taiwan's economic marginalization within the region.

Ma stated that since the government signed the ECFA with mainland China, a large number of Taiwanese goods can now enter the mainland market tariff-free, which provides a good incentive for foreign businesses to invest in Taiwan; Japan, for example, has shown a high level of enthusiasm, the president said.

The R.O.C. is a democratic country that favors peace, Ma said, adding that cross-strait tensions have eased since he stepped into office. The government has received praise for many members of the international community for its efforts in improving cross-strait relations, said Ma, adding that he will continue to work toward bettering relations between the two sides during his second term of presidency.

The president also said that in addition to improving relations, Taiwan has not forgotten to remind the mainland authorities to treat dissidents with compassion.

The R.O.C. takes humanitarian aid very seriously, said the president, adding that over the past four years, the government has not hesitated to help countries and areas struck by natural disasters, such as Haiti, New Zealand, Japan and mainland China.

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