Ma Ying-jeou calls for economic cooperation pact with EU

Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou said Dec. 19 that the country has now signed or is negotiating economic cooperation agreements with its top three trading partners, so the time is ripe for a breakthrough on this front with the European Union.

Two years ago the ROC inked the Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with mainland China, last year concluded an investment protection pact with Japan and is now preparing to resume talks with the U.S. under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, Ma noted.

As the EU is Taiwan’s fourth largest trading partner and leading source of foreign investment, while Taiwan is the EU’s sixth largest trading partner in Asia, an ECA is needed to further cement the collaborative relationship, the president said.

Last year overall bilateral trade stood at US$52.6 billion, up 8 percent from 2010, Ma said. Although it has fallen off this year, it is sure to return to normal levels in 2013, he added.

Ma made the comments while receiving Jose Ignacio Salafranca Sanchez-Neyra, European parliamentarian and group coordinator for the European People’s Party in the EU Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, at the Presidential Office in Taipei City.

The president thanked Salafranca for the EPP’s long-term support of the ROC, and congratulated the EU on winning this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The creation of the EU completely reversed Europe’s centuries-long history of war, he said, making it a very deserving recipient of the prize.

On that note, Ma also expressed concern over heightened tensions in the East China Sea caused by the territorial dispute over the Diaoyutai Archipelago. His East China Sea peace initiative was inspired by the agreement reached among European nations over the North Sea continental shelf, he said.

Ma expressed appreciation for the declaration by Catherine Ashton, high representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, urging all parties concerned to seek peaceful solutions in accordance with international law, and for statements supporting the peace initiative by Elmar Brok, chair of the EU Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, Laima Andrikiene, vice chairwoman of the EU Parliament-Taiwan Friendship Group, and parliamentarian Eduard Kukan.