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Thursday, November 18, 2021
EU Postpones Confidential Taiwan Trade Upgrade Plan
Chan Kung

The European Union has postponed a confidential plan to upgrade its trade relations with Taiwan, indicating it is uncertain about how to best balance its relations with Taipei and Beijing. The European Parliament is pushing for a stronger tie with Taiwan, and wants to sign an investment agreement. According to multiple sources briefed on the plans but not authorized to discuss them publicly, it has been reported that on Friday, Brussels was preparing to announce a new strategic form of liaison with Taiwan on trade and economic issues, including more regular meetings, cooperation in specific fields such as semiconductors, and more visits by senior officials.

This move will mark the expansion of the annual consultations between Brussels and Taipei, the 32nd of which took place last December at deputy ministerial level.

However, the announcement processed by the EU Trade Commission was delayed at the last minute. According to a source in the parliament, the issue may be re-discussed at a later date, perhaps together with the European Parliament, as the latter has been pushing for stronger ties with Taiwan.

The background of this incident is that after the European Union's bilateral relations with China deteriorated sharply in the first six months of this year, it tried to renew its dialogue with Beijing while at the same time finding a balance in its relations with Taipei and Beijing. It is generally believed that some senior EU figures worry that pursuing the latter goal may jeopardize the former goal.

On Tuesday, Zhang Ming, China's ambassador to the EU, warned that "any attempt to develop official relations with Taiwan authorities is not acceptable because it's a violation of the basic norms of the international relationship".

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager remarked last month that, "the European Union has an interest in enhancing relations and cooperation with Taiwan, within the framework of its one-China policy".

South China Morning Post reported that the European Commission does not appear to be interested in a bilateral investment agreement with Taipei, which is a key demand of the European Parliament, and lobbied for by Taiwanese officials.

When asked about the plans, a spokeswoman from the EU's trade commission said, "we are looking into possible options to boost our engagement with Taiwan, which remains an important and like-minded trade partner. This is a work in progress".