The request is part of a new EU-China strategy that the European Parliament will vote on this Thursday. Commercial interests and common values between Europe and Taiwan are underlined. For rapporteur Hilde Vautmans, the EU Commission and Council are reluctant to avoid endangering relations with Beijing. However, they should “defend European values when they are under attack.”
Brussels (AsiaNews) – The European Commission and the European Council should “move towards a bilateral investment agreement with Taiwan,” said Hilde Vautmans, an MEP with the liberal Renew Europe group, speaking with AsiaNews. The request is included in a new EU-China strategy that the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament is set to vote on next Thursday.
The draft report, of which Vautemans is the rapporteur, calls on the Commission and the Council to urgently start “the impact assessment, public consultation and scoping exercise with the Taiwanese authorities.”
Taking into account regional dynamics in East Asia, it underlines the importance of economic relations between the Union and Taiwan, especially in areas like multilateralism and the World Trade Organisation (of which Taiwan is a member), technology and public health. The report describes as “essential” the cooperation with Taiwan on critical supplies, such as semiconductors, of which Taiwan is one of the world’s leading producers.
For their part, Taiwanese authorities are urging the EU to sign a trade agreement with their country. Last month, the Taiwanese mission to the EU said that negotiations for an investment treaty should not be held hostage by EU-China investment talks.
In 2020 Taiwan was the EU's 14th trading partner. The volume of trade (US$ 58.3 billion) was higher than that recorded by the Union with Vietnam and Singapore, two countries with which it already inked comprehensive trade and investment agreements.
However, the European Commission remains lukewarm about the idea of entering into a formal agreement with Taiwan. “We are looking into possible options to boost our engagement with Taiwan, which remains an important and like-minded trade partner. This is a work in progress in Brussels,” said a European Commission spokesperson.
For Vautmans, the EU Commission and the European Council are “reluctant” because they believe that the move would damage the EU’s “one China policy”. China considers Taiwan a rebel province, and has never ruled out the use force to take it. The island has been de facto independent from mainland China since 1949. That year, Chiang Kai-shek's nationalist (Kuomintang) forces fled the mainland after losing the civil war with the Communists, but continued to claim to be the heir to the Republic of China founded in 1912.
Chinese authorities have repeatedly warned the European Union not to entertain government relations with Taiwan. Signing a trade pact with Taiwan would spark China’s anger, worsening already tense relations between the EU and China. Recently, the two sides have exchanged sanctions over China’s treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, while the EU Parliament has frozen the ratification process of the China-EU investment agreement.
According to Vautmans, “this reluctance is not unsurprising, however, if you see the lack of official reaction from the Commission and European Council after Chinese countersanctions on EU individuals and entities defending human rights.” EU leaders wants “to avoid confrontation with China for good reasons,” noted the MEP from Belgium, “but at the same time EU institutions have to act united and defend European values when they are under attack.”