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June 28, 2017

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Beijing main obstacle to FTA with EU: European lawmaker

By Joseph Yeh--The European Parliament supports Taiwan's bid to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union, but strong pressure from China is the main obstacle preventing this from being realized, a visiting European Parliament member said yesterday.

"China is opposed to any agreements signed between Taiwan and other countries or Taiwan's admission into international bodies," said Martin Callanan, chairman of the parliament's European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR).

Beijing's objection has made many EU member states reluctant to push for a Taiwan-EU FTA or economic cooperation agreement (ECA), Callanan said yesterday in Taipei.

But it is his view that EU members and the Chinese government should not be too sensitive about the issue, which should be considered an economic matter and not a political one.

"If the EU signs an ECA with Taiwan, a stable democracy with a respectable human rights records, maybe it will become a good model for the EU's signing of similar agreements with China in the future," he added.

Callanan made the comments during a visit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in Taipei yesterday.

He and a European Parliament delegation arrived in Taipei last Saturday to gain a better understanding of recent political and economic developments in Taiwan. The delegation is scheduled to leave the country today.

While in Taiwan, the delegation met with President Ma Ying-jeou and other senior political and economic officials. They also toured such local attractions as the National Palace Museum, Taipei 101 and Kinmen Island, according to MOFA.

Further Open Market to

EU Products

Speaking to local media yesterday, Callanan said his ECR has for years been at the forefront of pushing for bilateral trade agreements among the EU and its trade partners.

Taiwan's ECA bid has recently become urgent since the EU-South Korea FTA took effect earlier this year, putting Taiwan at a competitive disadvantage in the European market.

"We want the (ECA) negotiations to start as soon as possible," he added, but pointed out that Taiwan's government still has some room for improvement regarding issues that could prevent bilateral trade deal talks.

"Taiwan needs to continue to liberate its market and be more open to EU products, particularly in the field of food imports," he added.

During his meeting with Ma, the president said it has been and will remain his policy to further engage in trade liberalization, Callanan noted.

He would not give an exact timetable for the Taiwan-EU ECA talks, however, saying only that he hopes both sides can agree to explore the feasibility of an ECA as soon as possible.

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