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Europe-Taiwan partnership to inspire prosperity, stability

There are only a few days left before the European elections, with polls continuing to predict a defeat for centrists in favor of far right and euroskeptic parties who are expected to substantially increase their representation in the new parliament. People in Taiwan are of course not going to vote in next week's elections for the European Parliament, but we all should be aware of the significance the European Union (EU) in order to understand the importance of forging an even closer partnership with Europe through an economic cooperation agreement (ECA) and a bilateral investment agreement (BIA).

Bilateral trade agreements are important because the EU is Taiwan's fourth largest trading partner, with two-way trade that reached US$49.1 billion last year. Europe also continues to be the largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) into Taiwan. Between 1952 and 2013, European investments in Taiwan exceeded US$32 billion in total, and there is little question that Taiwan-EU economic and trade ties will continue to grow even stronger in the years to come.

Although this record is already very impressive, we believe that more can be done to initiate ECAs and BIAs that could equally benefit the EU and Taiwan. Among other examples, Taiwan's agreement with New Zealand came into effect in December last year, and according to recent figures our exports to New Zealand have already grown 35 percent over the last four months. Meanwhile, New Zealand's exports to Taiwan grew 33 percent. This is a perfect arrangement because bilateral trade is positively affecting each country. It makes a lot of sense to seek the same thing with both Singapore and the EU in the near future.

In fact, the Legislative Yuan and the European Parliament have been calling for such an agreement for quite a few years. The European Parliament passed a resolution on EU-Taiwan trade relations in October 2013, expressing strong support for talks on a trade pact. Companies from both Taiwan and Europe also hope that this agreement will be concluded as soon as possible. In 2012, the European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan (ECCT, 歐洲在台商務協會) published a follow-up to its original study on the potential impacts of a free trade deal between the EU and Taiwan, highlighting that “the potential benefits from EU-Taiwan trade enhancement measures are much stronger now than they were in 2008, when the benefits were first assessed.” In short, the chamber argues that the benefits of having such an agreement will grow as time passes, and it hopes that both sides will conclude an agreement as soon as possible. According to various media reports, former Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) went to Europe last year to promote the idea and received a very positive response.

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