MPs push Brussels to follow Biden on Taiwanese trade – POLITICO
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EU lawmakers are fed up with the European Commission’s reluctance to strike an investment deal with Taiwan, while US President Joe Biden is aiming for trade talks with Taipei.
The indecision of EU policymakers – for fear of provoking Beijing, which could tear apart the hard-won but unratified EU-China pact – contrasts sharply with Biden’s announcement to launch trade talks with the island. in the coming weeks. “
For a large majority of European Parliament lawmakers, reaching a deal with Taiwan would be a major diplomatic show of support for the democratic and self-governing island, which is under increasing military threats from Beijing. Chinese authorities consider Taiwan to be their own territory.
Within the European Parliament, the pressure is more tangible than ever for Brussels to step up Taiwan’s demand for negotiations on an investment deal, with the center-right European People’s Party, the Socialists & Democrats, the liberal Renew group and the Greens all converging around the idea. On Thursday, the Committee on International Trade (INTA) adopted by an overwhelming majority an opinion with 38 votes in favor, none against and three abstentions on “A new EU-China strategy”, in which members explicitly called for talks with Taiwan .
For the European Commission, however, this is a problem. Brussels has prioritized an investment deal with Beijing, but it now looks highly unlikely to be ratified amid tit-for-tat sanctions and mounting tensions over human rights violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong . The Commission has exclusive powers to negotiate Europe’s trade deals, but sticks to a “one-China” policy, which means “the EU has no formal diplomatic or political relations. with Taiwan “.
Kathleen Van Brempt, a Belgian socialist lawmaker, said the Commission “was totally unaware that this was also a political signal … The Commission cannot ignore the European Parliament”.
Marie-Pierre Vedrenne, vice-president of the trade commission of the liberal Renew group, declared: “We share democratic values, green objectives and we have a clear reciprocal economic interest in strengthening our ties. [with Taiwan] … These are sufficient reasons to request the urgent launch of an impact assessment and a scoping exercise with our partner. “
Thursday’s compromise amendment, which was reached between the EPP, S&D, Renew and Greens, “recalls, in the context of regional dynamics, the importance of EU-Taiwan trade and economic relations” and “urges the Commission and the Council to move towards a bilateral investment agreement with Taiwan and urgently start the impact assessment, public consultation and scoping exercise with the Taiwanese authorities.
The chairman of the trade committee, Bernd Lange of Socialists & Democrats, also felt that it was time for the committee to get rid of Taiwan.
“It’s time to put words into action, we need to launch an impact assessment as soon as possible,” Lange said. “Let’s analyze in detail if and how a bilateral investment agreement could benefit both the EU and Taiwan, and then consider the next steps. “
Taiwanese diplomats also intervened, calling on the Commission to speed up a deal now that ratification of the EU’s Comprehensive Investment Agreement (CAI) with Beijing is all but frozen.
“We are clear that any potential investment deal between the EU and Taiwan should be completely decoupled from the ratification of the CAI,” a spokesperson for the Taiwan mission to the EU said. “Given the current freeze on the CAI review and ratification process, a Taiwan-EU investment deal should not be held hostage to this ongoing process.”
The EU’s position is essentially turning a deaf ear to the call made by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who last month called on Brussels to start negotiations with the island. “To reflect how far Taiwan-EU relations have come in recent years, I believe it is time for Taiwan and the EU to resume negotiations on a bilateral investment agreement,” she told the time.
In a meeting between MEPs and the Commission on Tuesday, the executive refused to budge.
According to MEPs and others at Thursday’s meeting, Commission officials said they saw no need for an investment deal because companies are not asking for it, and the EU is already engaging with Taipei in other bilateral forums such as the supply chain. forum and investment forum.
In the past, officials have dodged the idea, saying they wanted to ratify the EU-China investment deal before they even considered starting talks with Taiwan and that they would need a mandate from the Chinese. EU countries. “The Commission has not yet considered launching investment negotiations with Taiwan,” a Commission spokesperson said in May.
When asked how the Commission is currently considering the possibility of starting investment talks on Thursday, a spokesperson did not respond directly. “We are exploring options to strengthen our engagement with Taiwan, which remains an important and like-minded trading partner. It is a work in progress in Brussels, ”said the spokesperson.
China is warning the EU to stop any such work in progress. “The European side has always insisted that it follow the one-China principle. We urge the European side not to have any official interaction in any form or nature with the Taiwan region,” he said in POLITICO a spokesperson for the Chinese mission to the EU. “We oppose the signing of any agreement having sovereignty and official implications between those who have diplomatic relations with China and the Taiwan region.”
Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee is due to vote on July 15 on the report on the “new EU-China strategy”. As he heads for a full plenary session in the fall, Parliament’s call to explore talks with Taiwan will only be heard.
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