Tsai calls for enhanced Taiwan-EU economic ties

President Tsai Ing-wen said May 18 that Taiwan and the EU should seek to strengthen economic and trade ties by concluding an investment agreement as soon as possible, stating that such an accord would benefit companies, consumers and investors on both sides.

The president also expressed gratitude to EU member states, the European Parliament and other institutions for advocating Taiwan's involvement in international health decisions, adding that she hopes the European bloc will continue to support Taiwan's meaningful participation in the international community.

Tsai made the remarks during the Europe Day Dinner organized by the European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan in Taipei City. Noting the recent growth in Taiwan-EU ties, she conveyed the government's determination to further expand these links through such measures as improving the local business environment for foreign enterprises.

According to the president, the government is working to transform Taiwan's economic structures and promote innovation-based growth. At the vanguard of these efforts are the five-plus-two innovative industries initiative and the Forward-looking Infrastructure Program.

The five-plus-two initiative aims to foster the emerging biotech and pharmaceuticals, green energy, national defense, smart machinery and Internet of Things sectors, as well as the circular economy and a new paradigm for agricultural development. The near decadelong FIP commits NT$880 billion (US$29.16 billion) to upgrading the country's digital, green energy, rail transport and water resources as well as tackling the urban-rural divide.

Tsai said the two undertakings will be enacted alongside regulatory changes aimed at boosting the recruitment of top international talents, enhancing protections for intellectual property and streamlining investment procedures. These reforms will provide significant opportunities for European companies, she added.

Taking the green energy sector as an example, the president said that Taiwan possesses well-suited environmental conditions as well as the required personnel and technical know-how�factors noted in the ECCT's 2017 position papers.

To maximize these comparative advantages, the government is promoting market liberalization by amending the Electricity Act and putting in place infrastructure to support offshore wind farm development, the president said. These measures will unlock opportunities for collaboration between local firms and leading European energy companies and help position the nation as a green energy hub in the region.

Besides high-tech sectors such as renewable power, Tsai expressed hope that Taiwan and European enterprises can cooperate in exploring emerging markets in South and Southeast Asia.

In line with the government's New Southbound Policy, Taiwan firms are expanding their presence in these regions. Given their complementary strengthens and resources, Taiwan and European enterprises could intensify partnerships to more effectively identify and develop untapped demand in South and Southeast Asia, Tsai said.

Noting that the thriving Taiwan-EU partnership is based on shared values such as peace, freedom and democracy, Tsai said that enhancing relations will prove favorable to both sides. An investment agreement would serve as a key milestone in this regard by further strengthening and institutionalizing economic ties, she added.

According to the Bureau of Foreign Trade under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the EU was Taiwan's fifth largest trading partner last year, while Taiwan was the EU's sixth largest trading partner in Asia in 2015. BOFT data show that bilateral trade volume rose from US$46.4 billion in 2015 to US$48.97 billion last year. In addition, the EU is the biggest source of foreign direct investment in Taiwan, with the accumulated total reaching US$41.3 billion as of the end of 2016.

Source: Taiwan Today