Mar 12, 2009

Taiwan: EU Relations Key for Growth

Active ImageThe Speaker of Taiwan’s Parliament speaks to EU-Taiwan relations


Below is an article published by: Parliament Magazine

During his recent visit to parliament, Wang Jin-pyng, speaker of Taiwan's parliament, spoke to the Parliament Magazine about a number of issues, including EU-Taiwan relations and the prospects for reducing tensions with mainland China.  

Q: What is your assessment of current EU-Taiwan relations?
A: Since its inception in 1991, the European parliament's Taiwan friendship group has rendered unwavering support to Taiwan. It not only attaches great importance to Taiwan’s economic development and space in the international community, but also recognizes Taiwan’s achievements in promoting democracy and human rights.

In addition, it keeps close tabs on stability in the Taiwan strait and related security issues. Likewise, the group continues to support Taiwan’s democratization.

Since becoming our legislature’s speaker, I have spared no effort to promote parliamentary diplomacy. Among the 33 bilateral parliamentary friendship groups in our legislature, one third belong to the European countries.

Most of the legislators with us today serve as the conveners or chairpersons of their respective friendship groups. Each of us strives to promote exchanges between Taiwan and Europe and deepen our bilateral relations."

Q: Do China and Taiwan have anything to learn from EU expansion?
A: I think that the EU’s integration experience, in which countries respect each other and pursue common goals, sets a good example for the two governments across the Taiwan strait. I also hope that the EU’s integration model and interaction could inspire the leaders of both sides to abandon counterproductive friction and pursue East Asian stability and world peace.

Q: Where do you think relations between Taiwan and China are heading?
A: In the course of democratisation, Taiwan has experienced ruling party rotation twice and has marched toward the deepening and consolidation of its democratization. It is our hope that the realisation of human rights and democracy in Taiwan may also be applicable to other ethnic Chinese societies.

Although Taiwan still has issues such as national and ethnic identity, I am convinced that peoples and governments on the two sides of the Taiwan strait will have the wisdom and capability to tackle these complex issues.

The democratic values and human rights pursued by all mankind can bridge the gap between the two of us and create a better future for both of our peoples.

Taiwan’s most recent presidential election was held in March 2008, thus bringing about Taiwan’s second peaceful government change. In his inaugural speech, president Ma Ying-jeou announced that he will take more flexible and pragmatic approaches toward cross-strait relations and foreign policy.

Over the past six months [2009], concrete results have been achieved, including the resumption of regular consultations and the normalisation of economic and trade relations.

For example, in June 2008 agreements on direct charter flights and tourists from mainland China were signed. In addition, last November another four agreements on direct flights, shipping, postal services and food safety were inked.

Therefore, the scope of cross-strait exchange and cooperation has been expanded. I believe that such developments will provide both opportunities and challenges for Taiwan.

The two sides plan to hold the third meeting this spring to discuss issues regarding crime prevention, financial cooperation, regular flights, and investments from mainland China in Taiwan. I hope that consensus will be reached, as this would create a win-win situation for both sides.

Q: You recently visited the European parliament, meeting senior figures like its president Hans-Gert Pöttering. What did you expect from the parliament?
A: I hope that parliament will support visa waiver for the people of Taiwan.

Approximately 260,000 trips are made by the people of Taiwan to Europe each year. However, only about 120 flights run between the two each week, showing that much room for improvement exists. Visa-free treatment from the EU member states will help promote bilateral trade, cultural exchanges, investment and tourism, thereby generating jobs for both sides.

In the past, European countries have hosted performances by Taiwan’s cloud gate dance troupe, traditional puppet shows, and exhibitions of artefacts from the nationalpalacemuseum. These tours have been extremely popular in Europe.

Taiwan itself has had the honour to host the Vienna boys choir and the Paris orchestra.

In addition, each year many European publishers participate in the annual Taipei international book exhibition (TIBE), which attracts more than 400,000 people annually. This year, for instance, publishers from Germany and France will set up booths at this event.

As the people of Taiwan highly regard European arts and culture, I hope that the two sides can enjoy broader and closer interactions in the future.

Q: How important are current economic and trade links between China and Taiwan?
A: Bilateral trade between Taiwan and EU reached [billions] in 2007. Taiwan is the EU’s fifth largest trading partner in Asia, and 13th largest globally. In contrast, the EU is

Taiwan’s fourth largest trading partner.
Likewise, the EU has become Taiwan’s largest foreign investor, with investments in Taiwan reaching €20bn over the past years, surpassing even those by the United States and Japan.

With Taiwan joining the WTO’s agreement on government procurement (GPA) in December 2008, it is believed that €20bn US dollars worth of business every year will be created, which is a great opportunity for European enterprises.

These achievements show thatTaiwan’s investment environment is highly recognised by EU member states, and that bilateral economic relations are growing closer.
After formally becoming the 41st member state to sign the GPA, Taiwan will be better able to realize its WTO accession commitments.

This development has been welcomed by our major trading partners, including the EU member states, the United States and Japan. I believe that this will also help Taiwan work with other major economies of the world to promote reciprocity and mutual prosperity.