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Student exchange pact with France suffers delay: envoy

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Little progress has been made so far on the possible signing of a reciprocal youth working holiday agreement between Taiwan and France due to a problem raised by France, France's top envoy in Taiwan said yesterday.

“There has been little progress (on signing the deal) so far due to a technical problem,” Olivier Richard, director of the French Office in Taipei, told local media yesterday when asked to comment on the issue.

Richard noted that the technical problem has nothing to do with Taiwan or any other country but some technicality that needs to be sorted out by the French government.

“We have to change the legal structure to make way for the working holiday program before we can continue the talks on the working holiday agreement,” he added.

Despite the fact that there has been little progress on the working holiday scheme, the French representative said bilateral cultural and educational exchanges between Taipei and Paris have remained strong.

Taiwan and France have one of the best cultural and science partnerships in the world. Also, France is one of the top destinations for Taiwanese students to study abroad, he noted.

“France is the second most popular destination for Taiwanese students to study in Europe, trailing only to UK,” Richard noted. The French government regularly issues more than 1,000 student visas to Taiwanese each year.

Meanwhile, a total of 1,300 French students are currently studying in Taiwan to learn Mandarin and other subjects, he added.

The French envoy made the comments during a gathering with local media yesterday in Taipei.

Taiwan has been trying to reach a working holiday agreement deal with France for years. Taiwan currently has working holiday agreements with four European countries: Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Belgium.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Taiwan is asking France to offer a quota of 200 people to take advantage of the program annually.

Meanwhile, during the gathering, the French representative said Taiwan and France have close ties economically as well.

In economic and trade relations, France was Taiwan's fourth largest trading partner in Europe in 2012, he said, noting that bilateral trade amounted to EU$4.2 billion in 2012.

Today, there are more than 160 French companies in Taiwan with 25,000 employees in the country, he added.

Stereotypes About France

  He also took the opportunity to dismiss the general public's stereotypes about France and the French people.

”Many people think the French people are romantic and lazy and that France is not doing well economically,” he noted.

However, France has the most productive workers in the world despite its relatively lower working hours, the representative said.

France is also a major player around the world in attracting investment and investing abroad, he said.

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