The EU must begin working on a Bilateral Investment Agreement with Taiwan, argues Charlie Weimers

Taiwan is EU’s natural and like-minded partner, says Parliament’s rapporteur, following report’s successful adoption in plenary
Taiwan

By Charlie Weimers MEP

Charlie Weimers (SE, ECR) is Parliament’s rapporteur on the INI report on EU-Taiwan political relations and cooperation

22 Oct 2021

It has been an honour and a pleasure to serve as rapporteur for the historic EU-Taiwan political relations and cooperation recommendation.

It marks the first time that the European Parliament has debated and voted on a comprehensive report that focuses solely on EU-Taiwan relations. The excellent cooperation among the shadow rapporteurs was demonstrated by the broad support ford by the report.

The European Parliament has made its voice heard loud and clear: the EU needs to strengthen its relations with the ‘beautiful island’, as Portuguese sailors called it in 1542.

Taiwan is a natural ally for the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy and shares Europe’s common values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Its robust democracy, technologically advanced economy, and geostrategic location make it crucial for the EU and Taiwan to pursue a comprehensive and enhanced partnership to underpin the rules-based order.

While the Chinese Communist Party attempted to obfuscate the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China, Taiwan was already attempting to alert the WHO to the seriousness of the situation at the end of December 2019.

"Taiwan is a natural ally for the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy and shares Europe’s common values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law"

This incident underlines the need for the EU to withstand pressure from mainland China to isolate Taiwan politically, as well as supporting the island’s participation as an observer in international bodies, such as WHO.

The COVID-19 pandemic further demonstrated the world’s reliance on Taiwan’s leading-edge semiconductors, when the global automotive industry began to suffer supply shortages.

The EU is Taiwan’s largest source of inward Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), amounting to almost one-third of Taiwan’s total.

To advance stability and prosperity in the region, the EU urgently needs to begin an impact assessment, public consultation and scoping exercise on a Bilateral Investment Agreement with the Taiwanese authorities.

The People’s Republic of China has increasingly adopted a coercive and aggressive approach to the region. Over the last year, Beijing has escalated tensions on with several of its neighbours a range of issues, including Australia, Japan, India and Taiwan.

The communist regime in China has also tightened its grip on Hong Kong, thereby stripping the special administrative region of its democratic history.

The human rights situation in China, particularly in Xinjiang, has also become alarming, with several experts coining the country’s repression of the Uyghur people genocide.

"Despite its small size, Taiwan is strategically located off the coast of China and could not be more different from its authoritarian neighbour in the north. While mainland China is increasingly criticised for its human rights violations and for clamping down on dissent, Taiwan is among the freest countries in Asia, where all freedoms, including that of religion and belief, thrive"

Despite its small size, Taiwan is strategically located off the coast of China and could not be more different from its authoritarian neighbour in the north.

While mainland China is increasingly criticised for its human rights violations and for clamping down on dissent, Taiwan is among the freest countries in Asia, where all freedoms, including that of religion and belief, thrive.

The EU must be firmer in its condemnation of China’s continued military belligerence against Taiwan. We must stress the need for freedom of navigation and overflight in the East and South China Seas, as well as the importance of pursuing peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

Just a few weeks ago, China sent over 150 warplanes, including fighter jets and nuclear-capable bombers, into Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone. Despite China’s empty rhetoric over seeking a ‘peaceful’ reunification with Taiwan, such actions clearly signal the contrary.

Taiwan’s Defence Minister, Chio Kuo-Cheng, stated that given the continuous and significant military build-up, China could be capable of mounting a ‘full scale’ invasion of Taiwan by 2025.

Taiwan is also threatened by China’s disinformation operations. Democracies across the world, including those in Europe, have similarly fallen victim to such disinformation campaigns, a threat that has increased significantly during the pandemic.

It would be in our mutual interest to cooperate in the fight against this. Furthermore, China’s attempt to intimidate Taiwan are not limited to the Indo-Pacific.

In response to Taiwan’s plans to set up a Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania, China imposed economic sanctions on the Baltic country. We must stand in solidarity with Lithuania and not permit China to threaten the bilateral relations of EU Member States.

We must remain defiant in the face of further extortion and not let it deter us from reflecting the broader scope of our ties, such as changing the name of the “European Economic and Trade Office in Taiwan” to the “European Union Office in Taiwan”. Anything else would only further embolden China’s outward aggression.

The EU must recognise the valuable role Taiwan plays both in the region and globally, including in the defence of a rules-based world order.

It is in our common interest, as like-minded partners, to strengthen our ties. This report does not yield to pressure from China, just as many MEPs have not yielded to strongly worded letters received from Chinese embassies.

As Europe and the EU, we cannot and must not allow the Chinese Communist Party to dictate our relations and long-standing friendship with the beautiful island that is Taiwan.

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