Taiwan hopes for stronger trade ties with the European Union when France takes over the bloc’s rotating presidency in the first half of next year, President Tsai Ing-wen told visiting French lawmakers on Dec. 16.
A six-member French delegation arrived in Taiwan on Dec. 15 for a five-day visit, the second one this year following a visit in October. The leader of the delegation, François de Rugy, is also the head of the Taiwan Friendship Group in the National Assembly, the lower house of France’s Parliament.
The visit is a sign of growing Western support for Taipei, as American and European politicians have made recent trips to Taiwan amid Beijing’s escalation of military threats against the self-ruled island, which it claims as its own.
Chinese pressure has reduced the number of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies to 14, yet other countries maintain informal ties with the democratic island.
“In the face of a rapidly changing international situation and the continued spread of authoritarianism, democratic partners should join hands together in cooperation even more,” Tsai said, without naming China, during a meeting with the group on Dec. 16 at the Presidential Office in Taipei.
The Taiwanese president told the lawmakers that Taipei hopes for progress on trade talks and a stronger partnership with the EU, as France will take over the Presidency of the Council of the EU—for the first time in 14 years—on Jan. 1, 2022. The Council’s presidency rotates among the member states every six months.
“We hope the EU, under the leadership of France, can continue to promote Taiwan and the EU’s negotiation of a bilateral investment agreement, or BIA, to open a new cooperative relationship between Taiwan and the EU,” she said.
The president of the council is responsible for coordinating the political priorities of EU member states.
Over the past few years, the EU has been the major source of foreign direct investment in Taiwan and is now its fourth-largest trade partner after China, the United States, and Japan.
As an important industrial supplier for Taiwan’s industry, the EU exports semi-finished products, machinery, and transport equipment to the island.
In 2018, Taiwan was the EU’s seventh-largest trade partner in Asia.
“Taiwan will fulfill its international responsibilities and looks forward to working with France and EU partners with similar ideas to make more contributions to the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific region,” Tsai said.
According to the president, Taiwan wants to increase its cooperation with France in technology, supply chain, and cybersecurity amid the post-pandemic recovery.
Rugy said he hopes the two countries will strengthen their economic ties, including the production of semiconductors and green energies.
Jean François Mbaye, a French parliamentarian of the delegation, wrote in a Twitter post that the future exchanges between Taiwan and the EU will be “rich and augur fruitful partnerships.”
The EU in September pledged to seek a trade deal with Taiwan as part of its formal strategy to boost its presence in the Indo-Pacific and counter China’s rising power in the region.
Reuters contributed to this report.