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Taiwan looks to enhance trade with EU

Central News Agency | 2009-07-14

Taiwan looks to enhance trade with EU

Taipei, July 14 (CNA) — A free trade agreement (FTA) expected to be inked soon between South Korea and the European Union threatens to leave Taiwan at a disadvantage in expanding trade with Europe, but the government hopes potential trade enhancement measures (TEM) will offset the blow.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Tuesday refused, however, to divulge if any progress has been made on the issue, preferring to discuss trade relations only in the broadest of terms.

“We would like to increase economic and trade cooperation with any region. It is our goal and we are working hard to achieve it, ” MOFA spokesman Henry Chen said at a regular press briefing.

Frances Lee, deputy director-general of the MOFA’s Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said that the TEM issue is managed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and that the Foreign Ministry’s stance is that it would be happy to see Taiwan and the EU reach such a deal.

“Like any other economic and trade negotiations, when it comes to TEMs with the EU, it is better to say less and do more. We will reveal the result when there is a concrete result,”Lee said.

South Korea and the EU concluded talks July 13 on an FTA that is expected to take effect as soon as 2010.

Many fear the agreement will affect trade between Taiwan and the EU, as many industrial South Korean exports that compete directly with Taiwan-made goods will be given duty-free treatment by Europe within five years after the pact takes effect.

Taiwan has advocated reaching a TEM agreement with the EU that would also streamline tariff barriers — a plan that has become more urgent with the pending South Korea-EU deal.

The European Chamber of Commerce Taipei (ECCT) has long advocated that Taiwan and the EU begin talks on TEMs — similar to free trade agreements — as they would help increase bilateral trade by billions of euros.

However, the ECCT’s proposal of agreeing to TEMs with Taiwan has yet to receive an official response from the EU.

Last October, the ECCT released a report that examines the economic merits of EU-Taiwan TEMs in the context of the EU Trade Commissioner’s strategic objectives in Asia.

The report, conducted by Copenhagen Economics — a highly reputable international consultancy hired by the ECCT — called on the EU to enhance trade with Taiwan, saying that this would boost not only the EU’s exports and production, but also its competitiveness in Asia.

President Ma Ying-jeou said May 14 at the annual Europe Day Dinner held by the ECCT that his administration agrees with the ECCT’s suggestion to explore TEMs with the EU, and that the government was drafting position papers that will be printed in several European languages.

(By Rachel Chan)

 source: CNA