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Why Taiwan-EU relations are improving

Two recent press releases from CNA, the Taiwanese news agency (Taipei), make it clear that the relationship between the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the European Union is expanding.

By: N. Peter Kramer - Posted: Thursday, June 18, 2009

Why Taiwan-EU relations are improving
Why Taiwan-EU relations are improving

The European Economic and Trade Office (EETO) in Taipei has issued a practical guide to raise awareness about Taiwan’s market potential and to better facilitate trade relations between the EU and Taiwan; the first EU Centre in Taiwan opened officially to promote exchanges and mutual understanding between top academic institutions in Taiwan and the EU; and let us not forget, this year the EU (finally) endorsed Taiwan in their bid for an Observership of the World Health Organisation.
 
What is the reason for this sudden European enthusiasm? Since a long time Taiwan and Europe have a lot to offer each other and there are already 30.000 Taiwanese students in Europe! It could be that the real reason for the fresh impetus is that President Ma Ying-jeou has, since taking office May 20 2008, adopted numerous economic and financial measures to improve relations with mainland China. With success!  And the new opportunities are not only for Taiwanese but also for foreign businesses: ‘Taiwan can serve as the launch pad for European businesses to begin their Chinese success story. Operating from Taiwan enables foreign companies to benefit from Taiwan’s privileged links to China’, CNA says.
 
In political terms, now mainland China’s attitude to Taiwan has defrosted slightly, the EU dares to be more positive for Taiwan. Chapeau!

New EU centre in Taiwan to promote exchanges with Europe

The first European Union Centre in Taiwan opened, as part of a collaborative effort by the country's top academic institutions to promote exchanges and mutual understanding between Taiwan and the European economic bloc.

Foreign Minister Francisco H.L. Ou said at the opening ceremony hosted by the European  Economic and Trade Office (EETO)  that the EU Centre in Taiwan marks a significant step in EU-Taiwan cooperation. "Its establishment here in Taipei characterizes  the way that relations between  Taiwan and the European  Union have continued  to expand," Ou said."It will not only deepen EU studies  in all areas,  but will also contribute greatly to people-to-people and academic exchanges between the EU and Taiwan," he added.Noting that there are some 2,500 European students studying in Taiwan and 30,000 Taiwanese students in Europe, Minister of Education Cheng Jei-cheng said at the ceremony that the centre will help to bring students and citizens of both sides closer.

Representatives  from  the European  Commission  and the European Parliament, Taiwan's Minister of Education, presidents of seven local universities, and members and directors of European offices in Taipei also attended the ceremony,  which featured a choral presentation  of Ludwig van Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy" in English, French and Mandarin by a children's choir from Taipei."It's  clear  that Taiwan  and Europe  have  a lot to offer  each other, " said  James  Moran,  director  for Asia  of the  Directorate General for External Relations of the European Commission.  "This centre provides a chance to make a difference." The EU Centres network in the Asia Pacific region spans South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.  Taiwan is the third East Asian country to join the network.The EU Centres program, which was launched in 1998, is now in its third phase.  The aim of the program in Taiwan is to help create a foothold for EU studies in Taiwan's higher education circles and serve as an information resource for a broad Taiwan audience. The EU Centre is a four-year project being run by a consortium of seven  Taiwanese  universities,  led  by National  Taiwan  University (NTU).
   
The European Commission is providing a grant of 1.1 million euro over the next four years, while the rest of the 1.55 million budget will be met by NTU, National Chengchi University, National Chung Hsing University, National Sun Yat-sen University, National Dong Hwa University, Tamkang University and Fu Jen Catholic University. The main activities of the EU Centre, which is located on the NTU campus, will include regular workshops and seminars on EU policies them to learn more about the EU. The seven participating universities will also launch their own EU study programs, whether at undergraduate or graduate levels.

European trade offices issue practical guide on Taiwan market

The European  Economic  and Trade Office (EETO) and the French Institute in Taipei have issued a business brochure to raise awareness in Europe about Taiwan's market potential and to better facilitate bilateral economic and trade relations between Taiwan and the European Union.

EETO head Guy Ledoux told that  while  there  are  already  quite a  few  European international   companies  doing  businesses   in  Taiwan,   the  new initiative targets small and medium sized companies (SMEs)  in Europe and is intended to spur their interest in Taiwanese market. The business guide, titled "A Practical Guide to the Taiwanese Market -- How to export or invest in Taiwan, " is a collaborative effort by the EETO, the French Institute in Taipei and other European trade offices in Taiwan, he added.
   
6,000 copies of the brochure  are already given to the European trade councilors and representatives based in Taiwan for distribution  to the SMEs at various events held by European business communities and regional chambers of commerce, Ledoux said. "If it's properly distributed and if it's accompanied by direct stimuli by European trade councilors and representatives, it will have a big impact," said the de facto European Union ambassador to Taiwan. Emmanuel Ly-Batallan, head of the economic and commercial section of the French Institute in Taipei, said that the brochure is very concise and contains all the basic information  that European businesses would need to understand the Taiwan market.
   
With a population  of merely  23 million,  Taiwan  is the world's 15th  largest  importer,  with imports  totalling  150 billion  euro (US$192  billion)  in  2007,  ahead  of India's  149 million euro, Ly-Batallan  noted,  saying that this is a good indicator of Taiwan's market potential.  Added to that is the fact the consumption level in Taiwan  is high,  with the purchasing  power parity per capita  being US$30,000, he said. Moreover,  the  quality  of  infrastructure  and  the  regulatory environment   make  Taiwan  an  attractive   market,   according   to Ly-Batallan.
   
"If you look at international markets in general, the quality of the legal environment in Taiwan is very strong," Ly-Batallan said, adding that a highly skilled workforce is another asset. Describing  Taiwan  as  a  market  "underestimated   by  European companies, " the brochure  states  that since taking  office  May 20, 2008,  President  Ma Ying-jeou  has  adopted  numerous  economic  and financial measures to improve relations with China, which present new opportunities for not only Taiwanese but also foreign businesses. Therefore, Taiwan can serve as the launch pad for businesses to begin their "Chinese success story" because operating from Taiwan enables European companies to benefit from Taiwan’s privileged links to China while taking advantage of Taiwan's developed legal and business environment, it adds. Another incentive for European business is the fact that citizens of 24 of the 27 EU member states are allowed visa-free entry to Taiwan with maximum stay of up to 30 days, an incentive that Ledoux and Ly-Batallan said is beneficial to bilateral economic relations.

Detailed information regarding the practical guide has been posted on the EETO Web site at www.deltwn.ec.europa.eu and on the website of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Trade.

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