Taiwan's foreign minister urged the European Union (EU) on Friday to reach a bilateral investment agreement (BIA) with Taiwan to strengthen business ties between Taiwan and Europe.
Speaking virtually at a conference organized by the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) in Rome, Italy, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (???) noted that the EU is the biggest investor in Taiwan while Taiwan invests relatively little in Europe.
"And therefore we think we need to make a balance," he said when answering a question raised by a European parliamentarian on what the EU could do to enhance bilateral relations.
The two sides need a mechanism to encourage Taiwanese businessmen to look at Europe as a potential market for them, and signing a BIA is the best way to do it.
According to Wu, there were discussions of a potential Taiwan-EU BIA back in 2015, but the proposal was postponed as many European countries believed it was more important to reach such a deal with China first.
In other words, "Taiwan was being held hostage" as many European countries would not talk with Taiwan on the issue before completing such a deal with China, Wu said.
But now that the European Parliament has the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) discussions on hold, it is a good time for the EU to think more seriously about a potential deal with Taiwan, Wu noted.
Some Taiwanese officials have framed the BIA as more of a potential free trade agreement while others, such as Wu on Friday, have looked at it as more of an investment deal.
It has yet to be specifically defined, perhaps because initial bilateral discussions on the issue have yet to begin.
Meanwhile, Wu thanked the European Parliament for adopting a first ever report on EU-Taiwan political relations and cooperation earlier this month.
The official document calls for EU to strengthen ties with Taiwan and to support Taiwan's international participation while asking the EU to take a more active role in pursuing peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
"The rise of the People's Republic of China as led by the Chinese Communist Party is the defining challenge for the world's democratic space. This warrants us working more closely together," Wu said.
The IPAC event was meant to serve as a "counter-meeting" ahead of the G20 Leaders Summit to demand a tougher stance toward the Chinese government, according to an IPAC press release.
Wu was among people targeted by China's government, including Penpa Tsering of the Central Tibetan Administration, former Hong Kong Legislator Nathan Law, and Uyghur artist and activist Rahima Mahmut, who have been invited to attend the Friday conference.
Wu, who is currently visiting Europe on a trip that took him to Slovakia and the Czech Republic, was unable to attend the Rome meeting in person, however due to a tight schedule, according to Taiwan's foreign ministry.
He is currently in Brussels, which is from where he gave his speech to the IPAC conference. He is also expected to meet with European Parliament members and possibly EU officials, though his itinerary in the Belgian capital has not been disclosed.
When asked if Wu had met with EU officials, an EU spokesperson told CNA in an email: "We are aware of the visit. There may be informal meetings at a non-political level. This is not something we would comment on."
While maintaining a "one China" policy, the EU is pursuing close cooperation with Taiwan as "a like-minded and an important economic and high-tech partner," the spokesperson said.
"In recent years, exchanges and cooperation with Taiwan have intensified and cover today a broad range of areas from trade and economic issues, to industrial and digital policies, disinformation, human rights and connectivity," the spokesperson added.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel