EU model for cross-strait ties: Chen

By Amber Wang, The China Post

President Chen Shui-bian yesterday said that the European Union’s experience of integrating economic and trade prior to tackling more complicated issues can be a valuable reference for Taiwan in the handling of cross-strait affairs.

President Chen made the remark to a gathering of business leaders, diplomats and politicians at the 2002 Europe Day Dinner held by Europe Chamber of Commerce Taipei (ECCT), an annual event to commemorate the Schumann Declaration brought forth by the then French foreign minister Robert Schumann on May 9th 1950. From the successful experience of European integration, it is clear that each member nation retains its autonomy and sovereignty. The European Union began with economic and trade integration in order to handle the complicated matters of its member nations. Such an approach can be a valuable reference for us in handling the cross strait issues, Chen said. President Chen also announced that the EU is expected to open a representative office in Taiwan by the end of this year to further enhance cooperation in areas such as human rights, environmental protection, health, the prevention of drug trafficking and terrorism.

Europe is Taiwan’s third largest trade partner following the United Stated and Japan, with a trade volume of US$34.8 billion last year. Chen pointed out that the technology, culture, academic, industrial and tourism exchanges between Taiwan and European have been expanding.

Acknowledging the support of European countries for Taiwan’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) as the 144th member country on January 1 this year, the president noted that Taiwan’s market will be more open and that the economic and trade relations with European nations will be strengthened under the WTO framework. Citing the European Parliament’s passage of a resolution last March supporting Taiwan as an observer in the World Health Organization (WHO), Chen called for other European countries to back Taiwan’s bid to join the WHO in order to realize the ideals of medical care without national borders.

Lamenting that he was unable to travel freely to some countries, President Chen urged EU member countries to comply with the EU resolution passed on April 11 this year to eliminate all restrictions on the president and ranking officials of Republic of China to visit EU countries. Commenting on Taiwan’s WTO entry, ECCT Chairman Paul Zeven said, “It has created new opportunities for Taiwan and Europe to further strengthen their trade and investment relations as well as new opportunities for trade in the Greater China region.” “For instance, Taiwan now allows over 7000 products, hitherto banned to be imported from China and we believe that such further opening of trade will also benefit many Taiwanese companies that are exporting hi-tech products that use components made in mainland China.” He also urged the government to further reform and restructure financial services sector, develop an effective system for the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) and execute public procurement with more transparency.

This year, one of ECCT’s major projects is to monitor Taiwan’s WTO compliance, with its inaugural WTO Monitoring Alert Reports published in April. ECCT endeavors to monitor WTO-related legislation in Taiwan, identifying problem areas to bring these issues to the attention of Taiwan and European governments. Europe Day marks the original proposal for the creation of a single authority to control the production of the steel and coal in France and Germany. It is seen as the first decisive act of European construction and an essential part of subsequent moves towards European integration.