The European Union and Taiwan are democracies with shared common values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Our trading relationship should reflect this.
With only 14 percent of the world population living in fully-democratic nations, the EU has to continue to forge alliances with liberal democracies beyond its neighbourhood.
Our delegation visit to Taipei is a testament to that commitment. Not only are we laying down the groundwork for a new trade deal but we are also visiting to express our solidarity with Taiwan against China’s continued military belligerence, airspace violations and disinformation campaigns against Taipei.
We must begin the process of deepening our economic ties before the end of 2021.
Recently, the European Parliament adopted a resolution with overwhelming support across the political spectrum, calling for upgraded EU-Taiwan relations.
This has only given momentum to those of us who want a closer relationship between Brussels and Taipei. Foreign minister Wu’s recent visit to Brussels reflects this willingness is reciprocal.
The EU is Taiwan’s fifth-largest trading partner, with bilateral trade between Taiwan and the European Union reaching €44.76bn in 2020.
To put this in perspective, the value of trade between the EU and Canada was €53.3bn the same year. A likeminded country that has a free-trade agreement with the EU, removing 98 percent of tariffs between the two.
This would-be trade deal would not only make both of our populations wealthier and better off, but it would also keep us safer. China’s aggressive actions in the Taiwan Strait are also a threat to Europe’s security, as Taiwan remains a key partner on the issue of semiconductors.
These semiconductors have aptly earned the nickname of ‘new oil’, as the global economy remains highly dependent on their use for our smartphones, computers and cars.
The most advanced type of these precious chips is produced for the most part by the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. A trade deal could encourage Taiwanese manufacturers to produce chips in Europe, assisting the EU’s home grown plans to reduce interdependence in this field.
In a post-Covid world where trade barriers are going up everywhere we look, the EU and Taiwan can lead by example by signing a comprehensive trade deal.
The EU should not seek Beijing’s permission to strike trade deals in the Indo-Pacific region. Not only did China itself sign a trade agreement with Taiwan in 2010, but China has also signed agreements with EFTA nations such as Iceland and Switzerland.
Don’t threaten us
The sanctions Beijing levelled on European Parliament officials are unacceptable and only prove the importance of the Parliament’s role when negotiating trade deals. The recent threats by the Chinese government against Europe’s only directly elected body will not intimidate us.
Furthermore, Europe will not sit idly by as Beijing pressures and attempts to coerce Lithuania for pursuing a closer relationship with Taiwan. The European Parliament will continue to push back against these wretched attempts and adopt appropriate tools in the future.
If Europe is serious about strategic autonomy, it must not be afraid of defending its interests in the Indo-Pacific. A trade deal with Taiwan would send a message to Beijing about Europe’s commitment to being a global player.
A Korea-style free trade agreement is within our grasp. Europe and Taiwan will be safer and better off by taking it.
Petras Auštrevičius is a Renew MEP from Lithuania, and part of last week’s European Parliament delegation to Taiwan.
To read the full commentary from the EU Observer, please click here.