Taipei Times | 17 January 2021
Taipei seeks to persuade Europeans for BIA talks
‘High time’: The government needs to guarantee the support of each EU member state for the bloc to reach a consensus on investment talks, a Cabinet minister said
By Lee Hsin-fang
The government is stepping up efforts to persuade European countries to start bilateral investment agreement (BIA) talks with Taiwan, as the conditions are ripe, Minister Without Portfolio John Deng (鄧振中) said yesterday.
Most foreign investment in Taiwan comes from the EU, while new member states in central and eastern Europe, including the Czech Republic, have expressed a keen interest in investing in the nation, said Deng, the Cabinet’s chief representative for trade negotiations.
Over the past few years, Taiwanese events promoting smart city infrastructure have attracted many European visitors, showing that bilateral trade ties are improving, he said.
Taiwan’s global visibility is at its apex after the nation won global accolades for its effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which presents an opportunity for the nation to garner the support of EU members, such as Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, to start BIA talks, Deng said.
The European Parliament has passed resolutions to support Taiwan’s bid to join the WHO and its intention to negotiate a trade pact with the EU, he said.
Given the good foundations as well as the needs proposed by businesses, it is high time that both sides commence BIA negotiations, he said.
However, as the EU is often slow in making major decisions due to the need to reach a consensus among member states, the government has to work harder to garner support from each member state, he said.
Commenting on Taiwan-US talks over a bilateral trade agreement, another high-level Cabinet official said that there had not been enough time to deal with certain issues, echoing outgoing US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s remarks.
Lighthizer, who is to depart next week, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Monday rejected criticism that he did not start talks with Taiwan because he wanted to protect Washington’s “phase one” trade deal with Beijing.
Instead, he said, there had not been enough time to go through many legal hoops with Taiwan and that many trade disputes with Taipei remain unresolved.
US law requires the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) to notify the US Congress 90 days before it starts negotiations with a foreign government, and it cannot start talks without the Congress’ approval, the Cabinet official said.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Aug. 28 last year announced the government’s plan to ease restrictions on pork containing ractopamine from Jan. 1, and the US held its presidential election in November, which left little time for Lighthizer to prepare for talks with Taiwan during his term, the official said.
Due to the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) protests against the pork policy and its plan to launch a referendum reinstating the total ban on ractopamine, it is said that the USTR hopes to take more time monitoring the developments in Taiwan before starting negotiations, the official said.